Wrangell, Alaska

Coordinates: 56° 28’ N, 132° 22’ W

Population (2011): 2,369

 

Walk off the ship and you are in downtown Wrangell. Most everything is within easy walking distance on broad, level streets. The city has recently added wheelchair accessible sidewalks, benches and colorful plantings to welcome and accommodate guests exploring town. On the pier it has been a tradition going back generations that Boy Scouts sell locally sourced garnets; you can pick your own from stones sorted by size and price conveniently arranged in muffin tins. Not far is the gallery and studio of Brenda Schwartz, known throughout Alaska for her local scenes painted on real navigational charts. If you are interested in history, don’t miss the new Nolan Center and Wrangell Museum as well as nearby Chief Shakes Island with its unique, original totem poles.  Or comb the beaches at Petroglyphs State Historical Park and search for ancient secrets from the past. Wrangell is also a great spot for adventure; so if you want a rush head-up the Stikine River on one of the deluxe jet-boat excursions or play a few holes at Muskeg Meadows with its raven handicap.

Located on Wrangell Island the town is the last deep water port in Southeast Alaska to be developed for tourism. It still retains much of its original Alaskan character, something lost by other more commercial ports. Some fun facts about Wrangell: John Muir made Wrangell his base during his exploration of Southeast Alaska; Sheriff Wyatt Earp was deputy Marshall for ten days.

Wrangell is the only community in Alaska that has flown four flags: Tlingit, Russian, British, and the United States. The first non-Native settlement was established by the Russians in 1811; the Hudson Bay Company moved in1834. The United States took possession of the fort in 1868 and grew as a provisioning point for the Cassiar Gold Rush in 1874 and the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.

Like most of Southeast, Wrangell’s economy is tied to fishing and lumber; however, with the close of the large wood processing plant, a principal employer, tourism has increased in importance. Though located in a beautiful setting, few cruise ships called on the port. Little by little that is changing and Wrangell is emerging as one of the most delightful stops in the Inside Passage. From Wrangell you can experience temperate rainforest, glaciers, world-class fishing, ancient pre-history and native culture.

FUN ‘n FREE

Petroglyphs State Historical Park - From the pier pass the Stikine Inn and keep to your left. Follow the beach road to the entrance of Petroglyph State Historical Park where you will over forty ancient petroglyphs, the largest collection of rock art in Southeast Alaska. These inscriptions in stone were left by the ancestors of today’s Native community. Please note: Sanctioned rubbings are available for purchase in town.

WALKS and HIKES

Rainbow Falls – This easy level walk is an excellent chance to enjoy a little of the beauty of Wrangell Island. Follow the boardwalk and you’ll pass through beautiful old growth forest on your way to this impressive waterfall

Mt. Dewey – Great views of the Stikine Straits and town below from this moderate hike. Trail head is begins behind the post office across the street from the end of the pier.

TOURING and EXPLORING

Wrangell Museum - The museum houses an excellent, eclectic collection of artifacts as well as priceless archaeological findings from the Prince of Wales Island dig. It has the oldest known Tlingit house posts. Wrangell’s Russian and Gold Rush history is also represented in photographs and artifacts. Previously the museum was housed in an old building in town. However, through the generous endowment by Dr. James and Mrs. Elsie Nolan, the museum was made possible.

Sitkine River/Le Conte Wilderness Jet Boats - Wrangell is the gateway to the Stikine - Le Conte Wilderness. Jet boats will whisk you across Stikine Strait where wildlife is often seen on shore. Trips are also available to the LeConte Glacier.

Kik-setti Totem Park and Chief Shakes Island Historical Park - Visible from the museum, this was the original site of the Chief Shakes Tribal House. In 1939, the house was restored and made a National Historical Monument. The tribal house contains excellent examples of Tlingit carving and iconography. The tribal house was renovated in 2012 using traditional construction materials and techniques.

Muskeg Meadows - For golfers who want to say they have played it all, Wrangell has a USGA regulation course - Muskeg Meadows. Located along the forest edge, there is no other course like it in the world. If the ground is too wet you can tee off on a piece of astro-turf. But the best part of the The Meadows is the handicap – there is a raven handicap – when and if a raven steals your ball – which they do.

RESTAURANTS and TREATS

Fresh fish and locally grown ingredients mark the hardy fare of Wrangell.