Sub­lime Wilder­ness, Charm­ing Port Cities

Where Alaska - - The Guide -

A wa­tery wilder­ness “un­speak­ably pure and sub­lime,” to bor­row from John Muir’s de­scrip­tion of Glacier Bay, Alaska’s “Pan­han­dle” en­com­passes a nar­row strip of main­land backed up against the Coast Moun­tains and hun­dreds of is­lands in the Alexan­der Ar­chi­pel­ago. The mist shrouded forests, peb­bled beaches, quiet wa­ter­ways and glaciated moun­tains of South­east draw a mil­lion vis­i­tors each year. SOUTH­EAST ALASKA A uniquely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment from the rest of Alaska, of­fer­ing a uniquely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for vis­i­tors, South­east Alaska lies at the same lat­i­tude as Scot­land and southern Swe­den. It has a typ­i­cal Pa­cific North­west cli­mate, although tem­per­a­tures gen­er­ally run 10 de­grees cooler than Seat­tle, WA.

Trans­porta­tion is dic­tated by to­pog­ra­phy, with most com­mu­ni­ties ac­ces­si­ble only by air or wa­ter. Fer­ries of the Alaska Ma­rine High­way Sys­tem (www.fer­ryalaska.com) carry both pas­sen­gers and ve­hi­cles be­tween main­line South­east Alaska port cities and to Prince Ru­pert, BC, and Belling­ham, WA. Two towns on the ferry sys­tem’s main­line also con­nect to the main­land high­way sys­tem: Haines via the Haines High­way, and Sk­ag­way via the South Klondike High­way (both junc­tion with the Alaska High­way in Canada). Hy­der, at the head of Port­land Canal, is ac­ces­si­ble by road from Ste­wart, BC. SOUTH­EAST COM­MU­NI­TIES The main­line ports in South­east (from south to north) are Ketchikan (pop. 8,313), Wrangell (pop. 2,448), Peters­burg (pop. 3,200), Sitka (pop. 9,084), Juneau (pop. 33,064), Haines (pop. 2,530) and Sk­ag­way (pop. 1,036). For more de­tails, see “Ports of Call” on pages 18-19.

Prince of Wales Is­land, a 3-hour ferry ride west from Ketchikan, is the third largest is­land un­der the Amer­i­can flag and has the most ex­ten­sive road sys­tem in South­east Alaska. Is­land com­mu­ni­ties in­clude Craig, Kla­wock, Hyd­aburg, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Coff­man Cove and Whale Pass.

Other South­east com­mu­ni­ties served by state fer­ries and lo­cal air­lines, in­clude Met­lakatla, on the west coast of An­nette Is­land; Kake, on the north­west coast of Kupre­anof Is­land; An­goon on Ad­mi­ralty Is­land; and Hoonah, Pel­i­can and Te­na­kee on Chichagof Is­land. Yaku­tat, on the Gulf of Alaska coast, is a stop on the Cross Gulf ferry route. It is also a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for steel­head fish­er­man.

Gus­tavus (gus­tavusak.com), gate­way to Glacier Bay Na­tional Park and Pre­serve, is lo­cated on the north shore of Icy Strait, 48 miles north­west of Juneau. It is served by the state ferry sys­tem and jet flights from Juneau as well as char­ters and sched­uled ser­vice from other South­east com­mu­ni­ties, with many vis­i­tors bound for Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours. SOUTH­EAST AT­TRAC­TIONS Join a wildlife cruise to see ma­rine wildlife, such as hump­back whales and or­cas, or a sight­see­ing cruise of Glacier Bay, Misty Fiords, LeConte Glacier, Stikine River or Tracy Arm. There’s black and brown bear view­ing at Pack Creek on Ad­mi­ralty Is­land, Anan Creek near Wrangell, Fish Creek near Hy­der and Her­ring Cove near Ketchikan. Es­pe­cially pop­u­lar in South­east are flight­see­ing tours—by small plane or he­li­copter—to see glaciers and ice­fields. En­joy Rus­sian dance per­for­mances in Sitka and Tlin­git dance per­for­mances in Haines. Ex­plore Alaska Na­tive cul­ture at totem parks and mu­se­ums through­out South­east Alaska. Step into the re­gion’s past at col­or­ful Creek Street in Ketchikan, the Red Dog Sa­loon in Juneau or the Red Onion Sa­loon & Brothel Mu­seum in Sk­ag­way. Get a taste of the Gold Rush by tak­ing a day hike up the Chilkoot Trail. Skim the tree­tops of a lush for­est hang­ing from a zi­pline. Ex­pe­ri­ence this wa­tery wilder­ness on a kayak trip. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

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