Alaska | Wildlife Photography and Citizen Science with Diana McPherson

Alaska | Wildlife Photography and Citizen Science with Diana McPherson

About this trip

Discover the natural wonders and photogenic beauty of the “Last Frontier” – Alaska! Perhaps no place fills the senses more than Cordova, Alaska’s hidden treasure. Cordova is a small, coastal town surrounded by glacier-carved mountains and nestled at the head of Orca Inlet in Eastern Prince William Sound. The area provides endless photographic opportunities with its wildlife, rich wetlands, lush forests, and countless waterways. Explore the natural grandeur not only with wildlife photography, but also hiking, kayaking, boating, and flightseeing. Each day you’ll enjoy hearty meals – home-cooked with local ingredients and plenty of fresh seafood – and stay in a cozy ecolodge.

Highlights

  • Seek out wildlife along the Copper River Delta as you take a canoe ride down the Alaganik Slough.
  • Fly to explore Egg Island, a barrier island hosting a variety of bird species.
  • Take a boat trip to the panoramic Orca Inlet to see the world’s largest population of sea otters.
  • Hike through three complete ecosystems on the Heney Ridge Trail, where birds and wildlife can be spotted.
  • Kayak the tranquil waters of Orca Inlet, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and home to eagles, sea otters, and seals.
  • Participate in a discussion on global warming before heading to the Sheridan Glacier for an ice trekking excursion.

Meet your leader

Diana McPherson

Diana is a wildlife and conservation photographer based in Richland, Washington. In addition to art shows and exhibits, her images have appeared in Nature Photographer and New Mexico magazines, Willow Creek Press calendars, the Sierra Club’s Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area guide book, and Whale Tales: Human Interactions with Whales (Vol 2) book. Her passion for wildlife photography stems from a love of animals at a young age. “I still have the first shark book I bought at the book fair in elementary school.”

Diana has a strong research background with marine mammals, shorebirds, invertebrates, sharks, elk, and raptors. She has worked with all ages as an environmental educator, traveled through the Caribbean as a SCUBA instructor, and worked on reef fish research in Belize. Diana enjoys combining her main passions of photography, biology, and environmental education by getting people involved as citizen scientists.

Anchorage

Aug 6, 2022

Upon arrival in Anchorage travel on your own by shuttle to the hotel. Meals are not included on your arrival day.

Overnight at Comfort inn Ship Creek or similar

Cordova

Aug 7, 2022

After breakfast, have some time to explore Anchorage. Alaska's most populated city began as a tent settlement; then, in 1915, a government land auction jumpstarted development into a town. The historic downtown, site of the 1915 auction, is approximately 15 minutes' walking distance from the hotel. In the afternoon, take the shuttle to the airport for the quick afternoon flight to Cordova. Cordova is inaccessible by road from any other Alaskan towns, so flight is the only way to travel there. Upon arrival, meet your guide and transfer to the lodge, enjoying some initial sights along the way, including swan nests on the delta and Cordova's town center. *All activities are subject to accessibility, road conditions and weather, a suitable alternative will be arranged if any activities are cancelled out of our control.

Breakfast-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Cordova

Aug 8, 2022

Today enjoy a scenic hike through the Heney Ridge Trail for excellent birdwatching, wildlife spotting, and rainforest exploration. Hike through three complete ecosystems in the trail's seven-mile route, including spruce-hemlock forest and muskeg areas. The hike culminates on the Heney Ridge itself, with gorgeous views of the Copper River Delta, Prince William Sound, and Kayak Delta below. As this activity is the most strenuous of the program, there will be additional guides to accommodate different levels of hikers in the group.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Cordova

Aug 9, 2022

After breakfast, take a boat trip to the panoramic Orca Inlet, where you will have the opportunity to see the world's largest population of sea otters and observe their interactions within the pod. Your guide for the day has been involved in sea otter studies for 15 years. Afterward, stop at a remote beach for a short hike to explore tide pools. Then head to Hinchinbrook Island for lunch at another beautiful secluded beach. After lunch, visit a kittiwake colony to observe these nesting sea birds. In the late afternoon, return to town and visit the Cordova Historical Museum and Eyak Museum and Cultural Center.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Cordova

Aug 10, 2022

After breakfast, depart for a full day tour of the Copper River Delta, including the highlight of the day, a float tour down the Alaganik Slough. Keep an eye out for moose, eagles, and bear as you travel by bus through the scenic Chugach National Forest to the 27-mile point of the Copper River Delta Highway. After a brief break to explore the dunes of the Copper River and a discussion about the Salmon habitat and commercial fishing seasons, you will travel back to Mile 22 and the site of the Sacred Eyak Village site of Alaganik. A quick introduction to some medicinal plant uses for local plants and handouts will be provided for participants to identify plants on their own. Then, you and your guides will launch canoes and float from mile 22 to mile 17 on the Alaganik Slough, where birding opportunities and wildlife viewing experiences abound. See areas where the USFS attempted to help restore the Dusky Canada Goose and Tundra Swan populations by anchoring nest islands in the ponds, and experience the dynamic delta ecosystem up close and personal from your view at water level. Finally, have an opportunity to hike a boardwalk birding path at the mile 17 ramp. Keep your eyes peeled on the return trip to town, as wildlife viewing opportunities continue until your return to the lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Cordova

Aug 11, 2022

This morning take a 10-minute flight, traveling Alaskan-style, to explore Egg Island. This barrier island hosts a wide variety of bird species, including the largest population of Glaucous-winged Gulls found anywhere. During your exploration and short hike of the island, participate in an ongoing study or gather data for a local biologist. After lunch, take a short hike along the beach. Return to the lodge in the early afternoon for a kayaking adventure in Prince William Sound. As you paddle through Orca Inslet, take in majestic views of snow-capped peaks and be on the lookout for eagles, sea otters, and seals. In the late afternoon, attend a discussion on the life cycle of salmon and their importance to the Cordova economy.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Cordova

Aug 12, 2022

After breakfast, your guide will give a talk on plate tectonics and the geological characteristics of the region. The Prince William Sound area has undergone dramatic changes in recent decades, largely due to the Great Alaskan Earthquake that struck in 1964. Lasting four minutes and 38 seconds, the 9.2-magnitude earthquake ruptured 600 miles of fault line in an instant, and ultimately gave conclusive evidence to seismologists about the existence and behavior of plate tectonics. Look at specific, unique geological formations and rock samples, then engage in a discussion on global warming before heading to Sheridan Glacier. Sheridan Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska, and after a short hike through the moraine, kayak through the crystal blue caves and jagged crevasses observing the ever-changing glacier.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Orca Adventure Lodge

Anchorage

Aug 13, 2022

Enjoy the morning at leisure before transferring to the airport for your flight back to Anchorage. Upon arrival in Anchorage, you will be met by a driver who will take you to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage. Dedicated to conservation, research, and education, the AWCC is a wildlife sanctuary that takes in and rehabilitates injured animals on 200 acres of natural habitat. Most cannot be fully released into the wild, and thus serve as ambassadors for the preservation of their species. Return to Anchorage to explore the historical downtown, including the Museum of History and Art. You will have time for dinner on own before transferring to the airport for your flight home.

Breakfast-Lunch- included

Flight home

Aug 14, 2022

Arrive Home.