Valdez is located in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, along Highway 10 near Prince William Sound. It is the southern terminus of the Richardson Hwy and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
In 1790, the area was approached by Spanish explorers and named after the Spanish Minister of Marine, Antonio Valdes Basan. Owing to its excellent ice-free port, a town developed in the 1890s, becoming a port of entry for gold-seekers and later for copper miners. The old gold-rush trail out of Valdez was transformed into a highway to Fairbanks. The town was rebuilt after a massive 1964 earthquake, which caused waves that engulfed the waterfront and killed several residents. The ice-free port evolved into a oil tanker center after completion of a pipeline from the North Slope in 1977. In 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in the sound about 25 miles south, dumping nearly 11 million gallons.
Today Valdez, population 4,036, continues as the pipeline terminus. Of interest are Chugach National Forest, Columbia Glacier and Worthington Glacier. Valdez is served by the Alaska Marine Highway.