Smitty's Cove















Project Area Name: Smitty's Cove
Project Manager Name: Brandon Hunter


Area Website: Not available at this time. 

Area Social Media: 

Area Description: Smitty's Cove, located in Whittier, Alaska has a rich history dating back to World War II. As the war effort in Alaska intensified, the Army Corps of Engineers sought to establish a second ice-free ocean port to supplement the existing facilities in Seward. Whittier was selected as an ideal alternative, though accessing Whittier required building two tunnels and 14 miles of railroad track to connect it with existing railroad facilities in Portage.   In 1943, the Port of Whittier was completed, with a large railroad dock and shipping yard established at the current location of Smitty's Cove. This dock facility became instrumental in Alaska's war effort, with all military cargo being routed through Whittier due to its more advantageous location relative to Anchorage.   Portions of the original WWII era dock remain on the northern border of the Smitty's Cove site, and numerous submerged relics from that era are scattered throughout the marine park. The site features various reef habitat projects, including an intentionally sunk airplane, a railroad tanker, and dozens concrete reef balls and pyramids. The original stiff-legged crane, once the largest in Alaska, was lost to fire and is submerged at approximately 70-85'. The site is a gravel bottom in the shallows, giving way to a glacier silt substrate that extends to depths in excess of 300'. A wide variety of marine life calls Smitty's Cove home, including wolf eels, octopus, numerous species of rockfish, and outstanding invertebrate life. Stellar sea lions are frequently spotted in the Cove, as is the occasional whale.   Smitty's Cove provides access for a wide variety of users. It serves as the primary dive site for Anchorage based divers, and is also used during the summer months by kayakers, recreational boaters and sport fishermen. There is also heavy commercial use in the area, with the Cove serving as a mooring location for commercial fishing vessels, a staging area for oil spill response drills, and a landing point for small roll on / roll off cargo vessels.   Due to the diversity of use, Smitty's Cove faces ongoing preservation and development challenges. In recent years, mooring has become more of an issue in the cove, with several mooring locations established right next to, and in some cases on top of, frequently visited dive locations and marine habitat. Access has also frequently become a topic of concern, though the City of Whittier appears interested in maintaining recreational access to the Cove.

Collaborators: Not available at this time. 

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