Where Alaska - - The Guide -

So Much to See and Do: Wildlife, Glaciers, and Totems on the Panhandle

Wildlife cruises of­fer sight­ings of ma­rine wildlife such as hump­back whales and or­cas while bear view­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clude black and brown bears at Pack Creek on Ad­mi­ralty Is­land, Anan Creek near Wrangell, Fish Creek near Hy­der and Her­ring Cove near Ketchikan. But wildlife isn’t South­east’s only draw. Chase your ad­ven­ture by kayak, take a zi­pline tour, go salt-wa­ter fish­ing, or fly to a nearby ice­field and walk on glaciers.

SOUTH­EAST ALASKA Of­ten re­ferred to as “South­east” or the “Panhandle,” this area stretches from Dixon En­trance at the U. S.– Canada bor­der south of Ketchikan to Icy Bay north­west of Yaku­tat. Alaska’s Panhandle, it is a nar­row strip of main­land that backs up against the Coast Moun­tains and Canada and, to­gether with hun­dreds of is­lands, forms the In­side Pas­sage.

South­east Alaska lies at about the same lat­i­tude as Scot­land and south­ern Swe­den. The re­gion mea­sures about 125 by 40 miles and 60 per­cent of it is cov­ered in dense forests of spruce, hem­lock and cedar, the re­sult of the mild, coastal cli­mate.

The ma­jor­ity of South­east Alaska lies within Ton­gass Na­tional For­est, the largest na­tional for­est in the United States. South­east Alaska has more than 5.8 mil­lion acres of des­ig­nated wilder­ness.

The north­ern part of South­east Alaska en­com­passes the Saint Elias Moun­tains, which has Mount St. Elias, the sec­ond high­est point in North Amer­ica at 18, 029 feet. Additional fa­vorite at­trac­tions in­clude Glacier Bay Na­tional Park, Ad­mi­ralty Is­land Na­tional Mon­u­ment and Misty Fiords Na­tional Mon­u­ment.

Bear view­ing at Anan and Pack creeks and whale watch­ing top most vis­i­tor lists. But many other at­trac­tions are avail­able. En­joy Rus­sian and Tlin­git dance per­for­mances, visit mu­se­ums and pho­to­graph totem poles. Step into the past at col­or­ful sa­loons or pur­sue your ad­ven­ture with sport­fish­ing, hik­ing trails, by kayak, ca­noe and raft. Spec­tac­u­lar tours are of­fered for glaciers and ice­field flight­see­ing, as well as sight­see­ing cruises of Glacier Bay, Misty Fiords, Le­Conte Glacier, Stikine River and Tracy Arm.

South­east Alaska has very few roads be­tween its com­mu­ni­ties. Many cities in the re­gion can only be reached by wa­ter or air. Travel through­out the area is gen­er­ally by boat, Alaska Ma­rine High­way ferry, float­plane or commercial jet ser­vice. SOUTH­EAST COM­MU­NI­TIES The largest com­mu­ni­ties in South­east Alaska are Juneau (pop. 33,000), Ketchikan (pop. 8,142), Sitka (pop. 8,985), Haines (pop. 1,713), Peters­burg (pop. 2,948), Wrangell (pop. 2,369), and Sk­ag­way (pop. 968).

Alaska Na­tive’s oc­cu­pied this re­gion long be- fore Vi­tus Ber­ing ar­rived in Alaska in 1741. To­day, the Haida, Tlin­git and Tsimshian Alaska Na­tive peo­ples con­tinue to re­side here. JUNEAU Alaska’s cap­i­tal city, Juneau, is the largest city in the South­east re­gion and the third largest in the state. Of­ten re­ferred to as “a lit­tle San Fran­cisco,” it is nes­tled at the foot of Mount Juneau. Juneau’s pop­u­la­tion rep­re­sents a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of leg­is­la­tors, lawyers, fish­er­men and mod­ern-day fron­tiers­men.

The city is renowned for its Juneau Ice­field, birth­place to dozens of glaciers. The most prom­i­nent of these is Men­den­hall Glacier. Lo­cated about 10 miles from down­town Juneau, Men­den­hall is a fa­vorite stop for vis­i­tors: at 200 feet high and 1.5 miles wide, it’s a spec­tac­u­lar sight to see. Other pop­u­lar at­trac­tions in­clude the Alaska State Mu­seum, State Capi­tol Build­ing, the USS Juneau Me­mo­rial, Mount Roberts Tramway and Tracy Arm Fjords. Vis­i­tors who want to ex­plore Juneau have ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able in hik­ing, wildlife view­ing, zi­pline tours and world-class salt-wa­ter fish­ing for gi­ant hal­ibut, king sal­mon, rock­fish and cod.

Totem Bight park in Ketchikan is one of many places in South­east

to view totems.

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