Southeast Alaska (Inside Passage)
Shaped by glaciers millions of years ago, Alaska's Inside Passage is a web of quiet fjords and peaceful islands forested with hemlock and spruce. It is the traditional home of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indians, shared by Russians, prospectors, lumberjacks, and fishermen.
Some visitors begin their Alaskan adventure by boarding the state ferry system at Stewart/Hyder. Both towns are located at the head of Portland Canal, separated by two miles and the Alaska/Canada border. Local attractions include a stone storehouse built in 1896, which is the oldest masonry building in Alaska. The Stewart Historical Society Museum offers a wildlife exhibit on the main floor, and artifacts and antiques upstairs.
On the west coast of Annette Island, Metlakatla is accessible by air or state ferry. The island has status as a federal reservation for the Tsimshian Indians, and long-term visits require a permit.
Ketchikan is known as the Salmon Capital of the World. Visit Saxman and Totem Bight parks and the Totem Heritage Center to see the world's largest collection of totem poles. The Tongass Historical Museum offers exhibits of traditional Native culture, a history of the fishing industry, and a timber-camp bunkhouse. The town's frontier days are remembered at "Dolly's House," a former brothel on Creek Street.
An excursion boat or plane will take you into 2.1-million-acre Misty Fjords National Monument. The coastal rain forests and glacial fjords shelter many species of land animals and sea life.
Wrangell, the only town in Alaska to have existed under Russian, British, and American flags, was invaded by prospectors during three gold rushes. Visit Chief Shakes Tribal House, surrounded by beautiful totem poles. Walk the beach at low tide to see mysterious prehistoric symbols carved in the rocks.
Petersburg residents celebrate their culture with decorative rosemaling (traditional Norwegian painting) on houses and storefronts, and a rousing Little Norway Festival every May. From town, enjoy an excursion to LeConte Glacier, the southernmost active tidewater glacier in North America.
Prince of Whales Island
Less than three hours by ferry from Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island has several communities connected by road. In Hydaburg, visit an excellent collection of restored totem poles, and enjoy good salmon fishing in the fall. Klawock was originally a summer fishing village for the Tlingit Indians. A totem park in the village includes original totems and reproductions. From Thorne Bay, visit Eagle's Nest Campground or the Sandy Beach picnic area. Both are popular Forest Service recreation areas.
In Sitka, the Russian capital of Alaska from 1808 to 1867, the New Archangel Dancers keep the Russian spirit alive. St. Michael's Cathedral and the Russian Bishop's House are among the reminders of the Russian tenancy. View Alaska Native artifacts at Sheldon Jackson Museum, and totem poles and a cultural center at Sitka National Historical Park. The Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center offers a close view of eagles and other birds.
Alaska's capital and the gateway to Glacier Bay, Juneau (pop. 28,822) is nestled between towering Mt. Juneau and Gastineau Channel. The city combines the modern architecture of high-rise buildings with the renovated structures of the Gold Rush Historic District. Local attractions include the Capitol Building, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Wickersham House, Gastineau Salmon Hatchery, state and city museums, and Mendenhall Glacier.
From Juneau, flightseeing excursions take you to the Juneau Icefield, and boat tours provide access to Tracy Arm Fjord, where glaciers descend as much as 1,000 feet below the water's surface. Admiralty Island National Monument shelters the largest brown bear population in Alaska's Inside Passage and has the highest concentration of nesting bald eagles on the continent. The island's only community is the Tlingit village of Angoon, where lodges and rental cabins are available.
Haines hosts the Southeast Alaska State Fair every August. You can camp in sight of two glaciers at Chilkat State Park. At nearby Port Chilkoot, visit a former Army barracks now used as a Native arts center, and see the famous Chilkat Indian Dancers. Up to 3,500 bald eagles congregate in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve during fall and winter to feed on spawning salmon.
In Skagway, remember the days of 1898, when 20,000 prospectors passed through town in search of Klondike gold. The era's history has been carefully preserved in Skagway's storefronts and on the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail. Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, or take an excursion on the vintage railcars of the White Pass & Yukon Route, one of the world's most scenic mountain railways.
Yakutat, once a winter village for the Tlingit Indians, offers access to excellent steelhead fishing. Use the village as your departure point for kayak and boat expeditions to Hubbard Glacier and Russell Fjord. Flightseeing tours will take you to Malaspina Glacier, the largest glacier in North America.
Sixteen spectacular glaciers flow from surrounding mountains into the waters of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Enjoy a day trip, overnight cruise, or flightseeing expedition from Bartlett Cove or Juneau. Access the park from Gustavus, a 20-minute jet flight or three-hour boat ride from Juneau. Accommodations are available at several locations.
Tenakee Springs offers quiet beaches and a rustic bathhouse fed by natural hot springs. Hoonah, the largest Tlingit Indian settlement in Alaska, provides access to excellent sportfishing. You can explore a fishing town built on pilings and boardwalks at Elfin Cove. Activities available in Pelican include fishing, kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.