Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Seward is a coastal town 125 miles south of Anchorage. Abrupt mountain slopes cloaked in shaggy summer greens and perpetual snows form an impressive backdrop for this progressive city of some 4,000 people. Shipping, fishing and tourism provide Seward's economic base. Large passenger cruise ships and freight ships call frequently at the Alaska Railroad dock. Cargos are transferred to and from the Alaska Railroad. Three modern fish plants process salmon, caviar, crab, herring, halibut and other bottom fish. A Marine Industrial Center with a 3,000-ton ship-lift has been built on the east side of Resurrection Bay. Nash Road leading to this facility is a five-mile scenic drive looking out over the bay and the mountains
Seward's history is among the oldest in Alaska. The great Russian governor Alexander Baranof stopped here in 1793, named Resurrection Bay, and built a ship, which later sank, probably because Baranof's workers didn't have proper materials. Gold prospectors blazed trails from here to finds on Turnagain Arm starting in 1891, and in 1907 the army linked those trails with others all the way to Nome, finishing the Iditarod Trail. Today that route is discontinuous south of Anchorage, but you can follow it through Seward and hike a portion of it on the Johnson Pass Trail north of town. More relevant for current visitors and the local economy, the federal government took over a failed railroad-building effort in 1915, finishing the line to Fairbanks in 1923. Until the age of jet travel, most people coming to the main part of Alaska arrived by steamer in Seward and then traveled north by rail. The train ride to Anchorage, daily during the summer, is still supremely beautiful.
Things to do
Besides the Alaska SeaLife Center, most of Seward's attractions are of the modest, small-town variety. The Iditarod Trailhead, on the water just east of the SeaLife Center, is where pioneers entered Alaska. The broken concrete and twisted metal you see on the beach walking north are the last ruins of the Seward waterfront, which was destroyed by a tsunami wave in the 1964 earthquake. Sometimes you can see sea otters swimming just offshore. During silver salmon season, in August and September, it's possible to catch salmon by casting from shore here, although your chances are far better from a boat. Both charter cruises and scheduled day cruises are available to view wildlife in Kenai Fjords National Park. Passengers on day cruises have the opportunity to see some of Alaska's most famous glaciers and also its wildlife. Commonly seen on these cruises are sea otters, Steller sea lions, dolphins, harbor seals, Dall porpoises, whales (minke, gray, fin, humpback), puffins, eagles, black-legged kittiwakes, common murres, cormorants, parakeet and rhinoceros auklets.