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Wrangell is located on the northwest tip of Wrangell Island. It is 155 miles south of Juneau and 89 miles northwest of Ketchikan. Wrangell is near the mouth of the Stikine River. Wrangle is a very walkable city. Old storefronts are built on pilings that occupy the Historic District. The Stikine River flows nearby. Shopping is not what one would come to Wrangell for, however local garnets, that are mined from a metamorphic rock layer five miles out of town, are quite famous, and bring in vistors worldwide. Cruise ship passengers will find Wrangell full of history, cultural sites, wildlife, natural beauty, and stunning glaciers. There is plenty of wildlife in Wrangell, including black and brown bears, eagles, sea lions, harbor seals, whales, salmon and halibut.   
Wrangell is the only community in Alaska to have been ruled by four nations, the Tlingit, Russian, British and United States. The community is rich in Alaska Native history. Your fully guided tour will provide a glimpse into the world of the Tlingit & Haida people. Once a great nation, the Tlingit’s territory spread from Dixon Entrance in the south near the city of Ketchikan, to the small village of Yakutat, the northern most community on the Inside Passage. Town offers little, but is a good base for wilderness excursions.
Where You are Docked
Cruise ships dock in downtown Wrangell dock, also known as the Cruise ship dock, is a t-shaped dock located at the north end of downtown. The dock face is 405 feet with a breasting pier head of 565 feet and an additional stern mooring dolphin 225 feet off the northeast end of the dock, allowing accommodation of ships +/-950 feet. The inside face permits moorage for smaller cruise ships, yachts, and also contains a u-shaped summer float for charter vessels to load and unload passengers. Cruise ships of larger size can safely anchor in front of the dock and lighter passengers to the summer floats. Water and electricity are available on the City Dock and Summer Floats.
The port is within easy walking distance of Front Street, the main thoroughfare. Here visitors will find shops and restaurants easily accessible.
Things To See and Do
Wrangell, one of the oldest non-Native settlements in Alaska, was where the Russians began fur trading within the area in 1811. The Island was named for Ferdinand Von Wrangel, manager of the Russian-American Co. The British of Hudson's Bay Co. then leased the fort in 1840, and named the stockade Fort Stikine. The large Stikine Indian village known as Kotzlitzna was located 13 miles south of the fort. The Tlingits claimed their own ancient trade rights to the Stikine River. They protested when the Hudson Bay Company began to use their trade routes. However 2 epidemics of smallpox, in 1836 and 1840, reduced the Tlingit population by half. In 1849 the fort was abandoned when furs were depleted. The fort then remained under the British flag until Alaska's purchase by the U.S. during 1867. In 1868, a U.S. military post named Fort Wrangell was established, and named for the Island. Wrangell then grew as an outfitter for gold prospectors in 1861, 1874-77, and in 1897. Glacier Packing Company began operating in Wrangell in 1889, followed by the Wilson & Sylvester Sawmill who provided packing boxes for canneries, and lumber for construction. The City was then incorporated in 1903. By 1916, fishing and forest products had become the primary industries for Wrangell. Late four canneries and a cold storage plant were constructed, leading to the cold packing of crab and shrimp.
The economy of Wrangell is based on commercial fishing and timber from the Tongass National Forest. More than 250 residents hold commercial fishing permits. Gross fishing revenues of residents are $5 million+. Fishing & Hunting Licenses are available locally from the outfitter guides and many of the stores. Licenses can now be purchased on-line from the Department of Fish and Game for a very reasonable fee.
The Nolan Center Museum, 296 Campbell Dr. (tel. 907/874-3770), is an impressive building, with galleries devoted to natural history, logging and fishing, and Native culture. The museum owns many important early Alaska Native pieces, and a lot of just plain old stuff telling the story of Wrangell, one of Alaska's most historic towns. Admission is $5 adults, $3 seniors, $2 children ages 6 to 12; family admission is $12. The museum is open May 1 to September 30 Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm, the rest of the year Tuesday through Saturday 1 to 5pm, or by appointment. Don't miss the shop, which has an extraordinary collection of books on Alaska and authentic Native crafts for bargain prices.
The museum helped preserve an impressive set of petroglyphs that lie on the beach a mile north of town. The 50 carvings at Wrangell Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park probably represent the work of forgotten indigenous people predating the Tlingits and were made over a long period of time. The images, chipped into rocks, are of animals and geometric forms. Their purpose is lost to time. Walk north on Evergreen Avenue and follow the signs down to the beach (don't go within an hour of high tide). Replicas of the petroglyphs were carved so that visitors who want to take rubbings will not destroy the originals; also try not to step on them. The great pleasure here is simply to search for the carvings -- they're just lying out there, and it takes some looking -- and to wonder at their meaning and age.
Nor to be missed is the Wrangell Museum located within the James and Elsie Nolan Center. There, visitors may stroll among exhibits that range from large brilliant brass Russian samovars to intricately executed Tlingit carvings, hand-woven baskets and gold rush memorabilia. Also displayed  are ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) of undetermined age and authorship.
Visitor takes a close look at a beach boulder on which unknown peoples at unknown times etched designs and pictures. (Photo courtesy of Wrangell Convention & Visitors Bureau.)
Walking and hiking is a favorite Wrangell pastime and a number of trails offer uncrowded forest, shoreline, and mountain options. Short on time? A one-mile stroll from Volunteer Park ballfields leads through cranberry bogs and muskeg with spectacular mountain vistas.
The Stikine River remains a prime playground for Wrangell salmon fishers, recreationists, and rubber-necked sightseers like me. At the upper reaches of the river Shakes Glacier and Chief Shakes Hot Springs awaits. As does a U.S. Forest Service recreation site with enclosed wooden bathhouse in a forest glade and an outdoor tub. What more could one ask for? (Well, some mosquito repellant, if you haven’t remembered to bring it along. The little critters can be ravenous.)

Chief Shakes Island, a tiny islet in the middle of the small-boat harbor, is the site of a Tlingits clan house and collection of totem poles constructed by Native workers, using traditional tools, in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. This house is an exact, scaled-down copy of the house in which Chief Shakes VI lay in state in 1916. The inside of the clan house is fascinating, both in the sense it gives of the people's ways and for some extraordinary artifacts. Open hours are posted around town or on the site www.shakesisland.com. Admission is $5. Otherwise, you can pay a $25 minimum to have someone come down and show you around. Great-granddaughters of Chief Shakes VII open the house: Tis Peterman (tel. 907/874-3097), or, if you can't reach Tis, Carol Snoddy (tel. 907/874-3538). Even if you can't arrange to get in, visit the island to see the totem poles and the charming setting (and, with extra time, visit the grave of Chief Shakes V, on Case Ave., just across the harbor). You can often see an otter near the island's footbridge.
The carved house posts in the clan house are replicas of the mid-18th-century originals protected by the local museum. These are probably the oldest and certainly the best-preserved Tlingits house posts in existence, still bearing the original fish egg and mineral paints, and a gash where, during a potlatch, a chief hacked off an image that a visitor admired and gave it to him -- a gesture that demonstrated the extent of his wealth then, and still does.
Chief Shakes Tribal House and Totems
Natural beauty surrounds Wrangell. The mountains, the islands, the rainforest. Visitors have opportunity to experience it all in Wrangell: glaciers, wildlife, adventure, outdoor activities, and fun. Chief Shakes Tribal House was constructed as part of the 1930s government-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps' project to recognize and restore traditional Alaska Native art and culture. The interior offers a dramatic view of the living environment for Southeastern Native peoples before the coming of other cultures to the area.  (Photo courtesy of Wrangell Convention & Visitors Bureau.)
Wildlife abounds in the area. Eagles, shorebirds, herons and songbirds dot the trees on Mt. Dewey overlooking downtown and along the Zimovia Highway bikepath. A variety of boat excursions take you to scenic areas to view black and brown bears, migratory birds, eagles, sea lions, harbor seals, and whales. Go fishing for the tasty salmon and halibut. During July and August, Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory, managed by the US Forest Service, is a favorite spot to view brown and black bears feasting on salmon. The Stikine River, a designated wilderness area is abundant with wildlife that lured the Hudson Bay Company to establish a settlement here.
If history and cultural influences are your pursuit, visit the Tlingit Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House Historic Monument, and Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park. Travel the Stikine River to visit the places where gold miners camped and garnets were mined.  During the summer of 2012, Wrangell Cooperative Association, the local Tlingit tribe, will be rehabilitating Chief Shakes Tribal House, using the ancient native construction methods.  Wrangell petroglyhp More such rocks may be viewed in the tidewater setting of Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park. A wooden handicap-accessible boardwalk takes visitors to an observation deck which overlooks the beach. Petroglyph replicas are loccated on the observation deck for “rubbing” – which is prohibited on the original 40-some ‘glyphs on the beach. Depicted are sea mammals, birds, land critters and any number of spirals and designs of unknown purpose. (Curiously, among the designs are “spirals” not unlike similar rock carvings I’ve seen along beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii.) Access for viewing and photography is allowed. Local photographers recommend picture-taking in late afternoon when the sun casts shadows from each carvings’ edge. This makes the design more visible.
Outdoor adventure and activities await you. The protected waters in Southeast Alaska are filled with Islands and bays and harbors rich with wildlife just waiting to be explored. The waterways provide excellent sea kayaking and opportunity for exploration by wildlife charter tours. Fishing is spectacular. Halibut and all 5 species of salmon are key targets by visiting fishermen. Nearby lakes and streams provide excellent opportunities for both spin cast and fly-fishing. Wrangell also has the only regulation USGA rated golf course in Southeast Alaska. Muskeg Meadows has tournaments almost every weekend.
Wrangell Island has over 100 miles of forest roads that offer mountain bikers, hikers, RV'rs, and other explorers access to remote lakes, rivers, campsites and scenic overlooks. Several maintained trails provide immediate immersion into the surrounding lush temperate rainforest. If you prefer a birds eye view of the surrounding area, flightseeing to glaciers, fjords, or cabins on remote lakes, or to Telegraph Creek in British Columbia are fun options.
Stop In For A Swim
Wrangell, end up envying the people living there. The Wrangell Municipal Pool is one reason. It's also a good stop for visitors on rainy days (which are plentiful here). The facility, at 321 Church St., next to the high school (tel. 907/874-2444), has a weight room and racquetball courts and the pool itself, which, during open swim, contains a giant inflatable dinosaur that drives children gaga. General admission costs all of $2.50 for adults, and court fees are similarly very inexpensive. Towels are for rent. It's open Monday and Friday 6am to 1pm and 4:30 to 8:30pm, Tuesday through Thursday 8am to 6pm, Saturday noon to 4pm.
Off The Island
Wrangell provides a stepping-off point for vast, rich wild lands and remote fishing, rafting, sea kayaking, or wildlife-watching. I've described two of the main off-island destinations below -- the Stikine River and the Anan Wildlife Observatory -- but there are many more, too many to mention. To get beyond the island, you need a boat or floatplane. You can go independently, hiring a water taxi for $200 to $260 an hour; it costs more than $500 one-way to get to a remote Forest Service cabin by boat. That service is offered by various operators. If you prefer to go by air, Sunrise Aviation (tel. 800/874-2311 or 907/874-2319; www.sunriseflights.com) is a Wrangell-based operator offering charters and glacier flightseeing.
Gearing Up -- For a lift over the water, a guide, or rental equipment, there are several long-established businesses. Klondike Bikes, 502 Wrangell Ave. (tel. 907/874-2453; klondikebike.com), rents quality bikes for $35 a day. Alaska Waters, with a desk in the Stikine Inn, 107 Stikine Ave. (tel. 800/347-4462 or 907/874-2378; www.alaskawaters.com), rents equipment and offers various marine services, including fishing and tours. Check the website for monthly specials and other useful information. Alaska Vistas, at the city dock where the cruise ships dock (tel. 866/874-3006 or 907/874-3006; www.alaskavistas.com), started as a sea-kayaking business but now offers water taxis; guided hiking and rafting; rental of canoes, kayaks, and bicycles; and other services. You can stop in at their office on the dock for advice, books and maps, gear, and espresso. Both companies are listed below under the appropriate headings. There are other excellent charter businesses in town as well.
Outdoor Activities Near Wrangell
Biking -- A paved 6-mile bike trail along the water next to the Zimovia Highway leads all the way from town to the Shoemaker Bay Recreation Area. There's nothing to block the ocean views and a good destination at the end, with a well-developed picnic site and the starting point of hiking trail to a waterfall. There are many more miles of appealing mountain-bike routes on Forest Service roads all over the island.
Fishing -- Anglers can dip a line in various streams and lakes on Wrangell Island reachable by car or a drive and short hike. The Forest Service provides a list, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (tel. 907/874-3822; www.adfg.state.ak.us, click "Sport Fish," then the Southeast region) publishes an extensive Petersburg/Wrangell Sport Fishing Guide, available online or in print. May and June are the prime months for king salmon fishing, silvers start in July, and halibut are available all summer. Alaska Waters can help you find a guide or charter boat for a fishing trip from Wrangell.
Hiking -- Across the road from the Shoemaker Bay Recreation Area, the Rainbow Falls Trail climbs steeply for just under a mile (and 500 ft. in elevation gain) on a boardwalk with steps, up a ridge between two creeks, forested with big, mossy Sitka spruce and western hemlock. The falls seem to tumble down between the branches. From that point, you can continue another 2.7 miles and another 1,100 feet higher into open alpine terrain on the Institute Creek Trail to the Shoemaker Overlook, where there are great views, a picnic area, and a shelter. An additional section of the trail continues from there another 8 miles across the island.
Besides Rainbow Falls, various other walks start from the logging roads -- the Forest Service can point the way. The Nemo Saltwater Access Trail is a well-built .5-mile plank walk leading to the beach near Turn Island, near a wonderful stand of red cedar and the Turn Island Campsite, with two wooden platforms, picnic tables, and dry firewood. An easy 1-mile trail to Thoms Lake was reconstructed in 2008, starting from the Nemo-Skip Loop Road (Forest Road 6267). Another good choice is the Salamander Ridge Trail, which leads a mile to subalpine terrain, where you can go off-trail hiking. The trail begins 27 miles from Wrangell on Salamander Road, also known as Forest Road 50050. The Long Lake Trail leads over a half-mile boardwalk to a public shelter and rowboat on the lake, on Forest Road 6271 (you'll need a map).
Sea Kayaking -- Alaska Vistas offers kayaking day-trip paddles starting from the boat harbor, longer day tours to lovely Earl West Cove on the east side of the island, or guided trips of many days.
The Stikine River
The Stikine's gray glacial waters rush all the way from the dry Interior of British Columbia to a broad, shallow delta in the rainforest a few miles from Wrangell. It's among the fastest free-flowing navigable rivers in North America and in early gold-rush years was a route through the Coastal Range. Tours that sometimes go as far as Telegraph Creek, B.C., speed against the current with the roar of high-powered engines that send a jet of water out from under their shallow, metal bottoms. On still water, the jet boats can go as fast as a car on the highway.
The shallow delta is an exceptionally rich wildlife-viewing area, a habitat of grasslands, braided channels, and marshes populated by sea lions, eagles, and many other species of birds. In late April and early May, when the hooligan run, more than 1,500 bald eagles congregate, and some two million other birds rest on their West Coast migration. Later in the year, when summer's salmon are running, you can see them thrashing in their spawning pools. Farther upriver, tours encounter Sitka black-tailed deer, moose, brown and black bears, mountain goats, river otters, and beavers.
Traveling upriver, tours usually stop at the Shakes Glacier and Shakes Lake, where there are 3,000-foot cliffs and some 50 waterfalls. Among others, Alaska Waters and Alaska Vistas offer these outings. Some trips stop at the Forest Service-owned Chief Shakes Hot Springs, where there's an indoor and an outdoor tub for public bathing. Alaska Waters goes all the way to Telegraph, B.C., 160 miles upriver, bringing travelers to a remote homestead lodge. Commentary on all their trips includes natural history and Tlingits cultural traditions and legends. A 4-day, 3-night package is $1,699. The going rate for a 5-hour jet boat tour from Wrangell to the glacier, delta, and hot springs is $150 to $180.
Rafting the Stikine offers fast water, expansive scenery, and the potential for a remote, many-day journey. Alaska Vistas offers these guided trips, lasting about 9 days, for an inclusive price of around $2,600 per person. Alaska Vistas also rents rafts and other gear for floating the Stikine.
Anan Wildlife Observatory
When the pink salmon are running in July and August (peak is mid-July to Aug 20), a population of about 60 black bears and 10 brown bears gather near a waterfall on Anan Creek, on the mainland southeast of Wrangell Island, often walking close to a platform where visitors stand watching. Don't visit outside the time of this salmon run, however, unless you have it on good authority that bears are actively using the creek. Forest Service interpreters are on duty during the bear months; visitors must also follow safe bear behavior (they'll brief you when you arrive). Most visitors will enjoy a guided day trip from Wrangell more than going on their own. Both Alaska Waters and Alaska Vistas go by boat. Expect to pay $210 to $265 per person for the hour-long run from Wrangell and at least a few hours with the bears. Both are good companies. Alaska Vistas particularly emphasizes the long day they spend with the bears and their guides' biology and game-management experience.
It's also possible to go to the Anan observatory without a guide, but you will need a pass issued by the Forest Service Wrangell Ranger District Office, at 525 Bennett St. (P.O. Box 51), Wrangell, AK 99929 (tel. 907/874-2323; fax 907/874-7595; www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/wrangell). Check the website for an explanation of the system, a calendar showing the number of permits available each day, and application forms. A total of 60 passes are allocated for each day of the period from July 5 through August 25, with 12 held back until 3 days before the visit. Passes are given out first come, first served by mail, fax, e-mail, or in person, and cost $10. There's a Forest Service cabin for rent, too, in very high demand during the bear-viewing season. The walk to the observatory is a half-mile from the shore where you land, on a good trail.
Sunrise Aviation (tel. 800/874-2311 or 907/874-2319; www.sunriseflights.com) offers charters to Anan for prices competitive with going by boat.
Eating Out
The two hotels also offer some of Wrangell's best dining. Alaskan Sourdough Lodge serves meals to guests, and to others by reservation. It's a family-style dinner without a menu. The Stikine Inn Restaurant is a popular spot, with excellent simple meals. Diamond C Cafe in the Thunderbird Hotel. Excellent home cooked meals, home-made soups and desserts.
You have other choices for deli sandwiches or a simple meal, including the Diamond C Coffee Shop, 223 Front St. (tel. 907/874-3350), next to the cafe of the same name, described below. It's a typical coffee and espresso shop, with good daily sandwich specials for lunch, such as the halibut panini served the day we visited. The deli at Bob's IGA, 223 Brueger St. (tel. 907/874-2341), produces good sandwiches and also sells frozen yogurt. It is open Monday through Saturday 9am to 6pm.
Wrangell is home to some of the most well-known artists in Alaska. You will find their art, jewelry, pottery and carvings in the galleries and shops throughout Southeast Alaska but here their work is found on display in their working studios and sheds. Local artist Brenda Schwartz-Yeager creates watercolor scenes of the Alaskan coast on navigational charts of the region. Schwartz-Yeager, who grew up in Wrangell, is also a boat captain and guide. With her husband she owns Alaska Charters and Adventures. 7 Front St., Wrangell, Alaska, 99929, United States Phone: 907-874–3508

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