Wrangle was our first town stop on our cruise. It is a small town of about 2,000 residents. Only small ships can stop at this port as the town doesn’t have the infrastructure and capabilities to handle the sudden rush of thousands of people into the streets. The town relies on small ship tourists, fishing, and transportation. They have a small airport with two Alaska Airlines flights daily.
Fishing in Alaska
Bob had signed up for a half-day fishing trip to catch a salmon or a halibut. I signed up to take the Stikine River and Shake Valley Glacier excursion. Gary and Mary wanted to walk around and explore the town a bit on their own.
Bob enjoyed his fishing trip on a 32’ jetboat with three other passengers. They fished for Halibut because the year’s salmon run was over. Even though they did get a few bites, the group failed to bring in a fish. However, Bob learned a lot about the techniques involved in catching the halibut to bring back to our son, who lives off the northern Washington coast and has just begun fishing in the past weeks.
River Journey through the Glacial Ice to the Shakes River Glacier
My trip up the Stikine River aboard a similar-sized jetboat was fun and educational. Thirteen of us took off with the long-time captain and his assistant, working as his mate for the summer. After a brief safety meeting, we headed out into the bay, traveling first northwest through the bay. We stopped, and the captain pointed out two islands. One used to be a dairy farm, and the other is where the local youth organizations mine for industrial-grade garnet stones easily found in the rocks. The town voted to limit garnet mining to kid’s organizations like the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations. The money earned from the garnets is used to support the activities of the youth organizations.
Heading further up the river, we spotted an eagle’s nest with two eagles nearby. The water depth went from over 400 feet to just over 2 feet in some areas as we skirted through the mouth of the river. Harbor seals were hanging out on a sandbar. The river was tricky to navigate, and we knew the captain had every nook and cranny memorized and expertly maneuvered the boat from side to side of the river as needed. We traveled at about 35 mph, often skidding through the water around fallen trees and sandbars.
Icebergs and Glaciers:
After about 45 minutes of spectacular mountain scenery, we passed float houses used by hunters during moose hunting season and to camp during the summer. We made a series of sharp s-turns, and suddenly, the waters opened into a lake blocked by large chunks of ice. Shakes glacier could be seen at the far end of the lake, with both its flows carving around a mountain, depositing ice and debris from the mountains into the lake.
The captain inched his way through the ice towards the far end of the glacier front. We saw the emerald and deep blue hues refracted by the light giving life and contrast to the ice.
The passengers were served cheese, salami, and cracker snacks along with our choice of water, soft drinks, and wines. The sun was shining, and the high sea-to-sky mountains looked spectacular, if not ominous. After exploring several ice flows and waterfalls, we started to head to the lake entrance, which had closed, bogged down by hundreds of chunks of ice. The path we navigated through coming in was closed, so the captain had to burrow through the ice, scrapping and separating the smaller chunks of ice to open a wide enough slot for our boat to skinny through to the river.
Our tour end time was scheduled for 11:00 am, so the captain wasted no time navigating downriver. I snagged a front seat on the boat on the ride back and was thrilled to have a wide view of the river and surrounding mountains as we headed downriver. I was sitting next to the captain, and he and I chatted on the way back. He had been in Wrangell since the mid-’70s and owned two tour jet boats that relied on the cruise industry and the local transportation needs of the town. Like many other Alaskan towns, Wrangell is only accessible by sea or air. Because of the mountains, there is no land access.
Overall, we have found Alaskans to be friendly and devoted to their natural resources and beautiful lands. They rely on tourism for much of their income but are happy to see us all leave them to live in this magnificent country.
I enjoyed getting out on the water and seeing some of nature’s most beautiful and remote sites on this excursion. The service was excellent, and the view was spectacular.
Around Town in Wrangell:
Mary and Gary had an equally great time walking around town and learning about Wrangle’s native history. They headed first to the Wrangle Museum, with over 5,000 historical photos and native artifacts, including a collection of Tlingit petroglyphs and displays of historical fishing, mining, and logging displays that all played an essential role in Wrangell’s history.
After the museum, they wandered along the seashore to the actual Tlinget petrographs in the tall rocks. There was a tour group there so that they could listen to the guide’s explanation of the history of the petroglyphs. She then handed out parchment paper to everyone, including Gary and Mary. They were all taught how to hold the parchment paper over the petroglyphs while rubbing it with green ferns found along the waterfront. The result was a mirror copy of the petroglyph suitable for framing that will capture this moment for them. It pays to be in the right place at the right time.
Gary and Mary enjoyed their afternoon in this sleepy seaside town. Bob and I quickly walked along the main street after lunch to grab a magnet and check out the town. Before boarding the ship, Bob made a friend by saying goodbye with a kiss. I didn’t know then that this would be “a thing” on our trip.
Wrangell, Alaska, is a city located on the northern tip of Wrangell Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean. It has a rich history that dates back to the Tlingit people, who first inhabited the area thousands of years ago. Later, the town was founded by Russians in 1811 and purchased by the United States in 1867.
The area was known for its fisheries and logging industries during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Stikine River was a main source of fish and a primary trade route for the Tlingit people who thrived in the area. Half the Tlingit population was wiped out during smallpox epidemics in 186 and 1840.
The city is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, which is a temperate rainforest that covers most of Southeast Alaska. This makes Wrangell a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities like hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
The Tlingit culture is still alive in Wrangell, with many totem poles and other traditional Tlingit art visible throughout the town. The city is also home to the Wrangell Cooperative Association, a Tlingit tribal government representing the local tribe.
One of the distinguishing features of Wrangell is the Stikine River, the fastest free-flowing navigable river in North America. Visitors can take a jet boat tour up the river to see the LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America.
Wrangell is a great starting point for exploring the Queen Charlotte Sound if you’re interested in cruising. This area is known for its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and unique coastal communities.
Fun facts about Wrangell, Alaska
Certainly! Here are 15 interesting facts about Wrangell, Alaska
1. Wrangell is one of the oldest towns in Alaska, having been founded by Russians in 1834.
2. The town is named after Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, a Russian explorer and governor of Russian America.
3. Wrangell is located on Wrangell Island, which is part of the Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska.
4. The town has a population of around 2,400 people.
5. Wrangell is known for its totem poles, which are scattered throughout the town and tell the stories of the Tlingit and Haida people who have lived in the area for thousands of years.
6. The Stikine River, which flows through Wrangell, is one of the fastest free-flowing rivers in North America.
7. Wrangell is home to the largest population of the endangered Steller sea lion in the world.
8. The town has a rich fishing history, with salmon and halibut being the most commonly caught fish.
9. Wrangell is a popular destination for hunters, with black bear, brown bear, and Sitka black-tailed deer being the most commonly hunted animals.
10. The Wrangell Mountains, which are located to the north of the town, are home to the largest concentration of glaciers in North America.
11. The town has a strong sense of community, with many events and festivals throughout the year, including the Bearfest, which celebrates the town’s bear population.
12. Wrangell is only accessible by boat or plane, with the nearest road being over 150 miles away.
13. The town has a rich history of gold mining, with the first gold rush in Alaska taking place in the nearby Stikine River in 1861.
14. Wrangell is home to the Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House National Historic Landmark, which is a Tlingit village site that dates back over 2,000 years.
15. The town has a unique climate, with mild temperatures in the summer and relatively warm temperatures in the winter due to its location near the ocean.