Wrangell is one of the thousands of islands that make up the Alexander Archipelago in Southeast Alaska. Wrangell Island is located in the heart of the beautiful Tongass National Rain Forest. The first known people to settle on Wrangell Island was the Tlingit Nation approximately 5,000 years ago. The Tlingit people settled in a village, 17 miles south of our current civilization, known as Kasitlan. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that humans occupied the north end of the island. Since then, Wrangell has seen hardship and has prospered through 3 flags: Russian, British, and American. Today approximately 1,200 people call Wrangell Island home.
The City of Wrangell “Gateway to the Stikine” is an authentic Alaskan town that reflects the friendly pioneer spirit of the last frontier. Our community is rich in Alaska Native, fur trade, gold rush, and local history. Wrangell has mild summer temperatures from mid to upper 60°F and wet, windy winters with temperatures from 20-30°F. Wrangell averages 80” of rain annually. Wrangellites dress in layers, including an outer rain protective layer and inner wool layers. When adventuring, relaxing or hunting in the wilderness, one must have bug repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, and appropriate wildlife protection (i.e. first aid kit, bear spray, fire arm, etc.).
Wrangell’s attractions include: the Stikine River, Shakes Glacier AnAn Bear & Wildlife Observatory, LeConte Glacier, many aerial view hiking trails, a coast-line bike path, picnic & camping sites, a swimming pool equipped with fitness center, Forest Service maintained scenic road ways, beaches, historical & cultural sites, a 9 hole golf course, a shooting & archery range, and Castle Mountain Entertainment Movie Theatre.
Being an island, one must travel to Wrangell via boat or plane. Regardless of our small size, Wrangell has various travel options: Alaska Airlines, Alaska Marine Highway System, or Sunrise Aviation.
Stikine River Birding Festival
The Stikine River Birding Festival, (formerly Stikine River Garnet Festival) was founded in 1997 by Alaska Waters’ marketing director. The festival is scheduled annually, every fourth weekend in April.
Spring arrives earlier in southeast Alaska than in other areas of the state. The festival is the first of many springtime birding and wildlife festivals held through out Alaska. It was created and designed to enhance the education of Wrangell’s youth, community and visitors about the wildlife and history of the Stikine River Delta, to celebrate the area’s local native heritage and culture, as well as encourage economic development and diversity for Central Southeast Alaska.
Visitors are invited to join the five day celebration which is marked by the largest springtime concentration of American Bald Eagles in North America. Alaska Waters Stikine River Delta jet boat tours offer participants a chance to view Sea Lions chasing a supper of hooligan up the Stikine River, Bald Eagles fishing, as well as flocks of shore birds and other wildlife located on the delta.
The Stikine River delta is a major stop on the Pacific fly-way for approximately 200,000 shore-birds, up to 15,000 Snow Geese, & over 10,000 Sand Hill Cranes. There are about 123 different species of birds in attendance annually. In addition, the Stikine River hosts the largest springtime concentration of American Bald Eagles in the world. The spring run of “Hooligan” or Eulachon (a small, smelt like fish) also attracts large numbers of Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals. Leisnoi Island, located near the mouth of the river is a popular Sea Lion “haul out” during the spring Hooligan run. Occasionally, Orcas can be seen near the delta waiting to feast on stray Sea Lions or Seals.
Festival events include: birding workshops, golf tournaments, artist’s fair, Wrangell Island & Stikine river birding tours.
The Wrangell BearFest is an event to celebrate the Bears of Alaska & specifically, the bears at AnAn Bear & Wildlife Observatory. The event is hosted during late July – early August.
The AnAn Bear & Wildlife Observatory is operated by the US Forest Service. It’s located on the main land, 30 miles southeast of the City of Wrangell. AnAn Creek is an ancient Tlingit fishing site. The creek has the largest pink salmon run in Southeast Alaska, attracting a significant amount of predators including but not limited to Black & Brown Bears, Bald Eagles, & Harbor Seals. The observatory consists of a covered viewing shelter, decks encompassed by railings, photo blinds, and an out house. Visitors will disembark in a tidal area and then must traverse a .5 mile boardwalk to reach the observatory.
In order to visit the observatory, one must arrive by boat or float plane and from July 5 through August 25 an individual permit is required. When you book a tour, your permit will be acquired by the tour company.
Festival events include: bear workshops/symposiums, golf tournaments, live music, photo contest, wildlife photography workshops, Regional Arts Fair, street games, salmon bake, 1/2 marathon & running of the bears 100 yard dash, native history & cultural events, movies, cub plunge (children’s swim party), raffles, & much more.
BearFest is Sponsored by: First Bank, The James & Elsie Nolan Center, US Forest Service, Alaska Airlines, Sharon Gaiptman Communications, Alaskan Sourdough Lodge, Stikine Inn, Alaska Vistas, Wrangell Convention & Visitor Bureau, R.E. Johnson Photography, Craighead Institute, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, & Trident Seafoods.
For more information visit www.alaskabearfest.org