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.