The Whittier Experience

The Whittier Experience

Whittier Alaska Skyline

Whittier AK Summer View

In 1998, the project to redesign the tunnel to handle car and truck traffic, and today, one can drive to Whittier. 2020 will be the year of its twentieth anniversary of service by this 13,300-foot tunnel.

Whittier Port

Whittier Port

The 16-foot wide tunnel opens for one-way traffic on a set schedule, so visitors must consult the posted schedule to know when to get through from either end. AM and ends at 11:15 PM during summer months unless a construction project is set. Traffic stars at 5:30 As the only point of land access, the Whittier Tunnel is always busy, so arrive early if you plan to make it before the traffic flow switches to the other end!

Whittier did not ‘begin’ in the 1900s. The area has been a hunting, gathering, and transit point for Chugach Eskimos for access between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm and is rich in Alaska Native history.

 

When the Alaska Gold Rush occurred, excited prospectors and miners came to Whittier, then headed for the gold fields, climbing Portage Pass to trek to the Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet.

 

Today, Whittier is not merely a military town. The port handles freight and recreation, with fishing, cruise excursions, and boating among the options. A drive around the town leads one to abandoned military buildings, one of while is 14-stories tall. This building has apartments (home to the majority of Whittier residents) and is connected by a tunnel to the Whittier School, allowing students to get to classes regardless of the weather. The other large structure, the Buckner Building was once called a ‘city’ as it included a theatre, places to eat, and sundry services that operated during the 1950s. It has been abandoned, but locals will share the stories of its past. Five other buildings constructed and used during the Cold War still exist and all seven survived the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. Signs have been erected for walking tours, so plan to spend some time on foot.

Begich Tower

Begich Tower – Home to Most of Whittier’s Residents

In spite of its rising and falling eras of military importance, Whittier has thrived. Over 700,000 visitors come through Whittier annual, while the resident population remains under 220, according to the US Census Bureau. Perhaps nowhere else will you find a population that is more community-centric! Every resident has a hand in making the town function. With Anchorage about 53 miles away, there is always an opportunity to get a fresh view, but back they come to participate in an experience of ‘home’ in Whittier.

 

You can come home to an Anchorage Bed & Breakfast. Call 907-227-2393 for options on the Inspected & Approved inns throughout the Municipality, where you can relax in comfort.

Mary M. Rydesky, Jarvi Homestay B&B, is one of the Innkeepers active in the Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

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