The best Tourist Attractions in Wrangell, Alaska

The best Tourist Attractions in Wrangell, Alaska

The best Tourist Attractions in Wrangell, Alaska

Wrangell has a vibrant history that dates back perhaps 8,000 years when some ancient people carved drawings into the rock along the beach. More is known about their descendants the powerful Stikine Tlingits who had established communities there when the first European settlers arrived in the 1700s. The Russians made their mark in Wrangell next. The Russian-American Co. set up a fur-trading operation in 1834. It was later turned over to the British, who called the outpost Fort Stikine. The third flag to fly over the town (renamed Fort Wrangell after a Russian-American Co. manager) was the Stars and Stripes. It was hoisted after Alaska was sold to the U.S. in 1867.

the Stikine, Cassiar and Klondike in Wrangell, Alaska

Stampeders headed for three gold rushes (the Stikine, Cassiar and Klondike) made Wrangell their base of operations from 1860-1890. (Naturalist John Muir explored the area, too he, of course, was awed by the scenery.) Several boom and bust cycles followed as commercial fishing, canneries (where thousands of Chinese worked) and a sawmill replaced fur trapping and farming. When the local sawmill closed in 1994, the community turned to tourism.

Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center on Main Street in Haines, Alaska (1)

Fortunately, the town (pop. 3,000) has preserved its small but interesting historic district. A thread of old storefronts built on pilings runs along the eastern side of Front Street. Within a block or so is the Wrangell Museum, housed in the town’s first schoolhouse (ca. 1906). It has the oldest known Tlingit house post in the Southeast, as well as totem poles, vintage Tlingit baskets, petroglyphs (rock carvings) and displays chronicling Alaska’s early aviation and communication history.

1. The best Attractions & Things to Do in Wrangell, Alaska

Kiksadi Totem Park in Wrangell, Alaska

Also worth a stop is Kiksadi Totem Park, at the corner of Front and Episcopal Streets. It’s on the way to Chief Shakes Island, which is at the end of Shakes Street (the southern extension of Front Street). You’ll take a footbridge across the water to see the Chief Shakes Tribal House, a replica of a Tlingit community house. Built as a Civilian Conservation Corps project in 1940, the loghouse contains some Native artifacts. There also are several totem poles on the small island and great views of the harbor.

Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell, Alaska

Take time to visit Petroglyph Beach to see ancient art on the rocks. About 1 mi/1.6 km north of the cruise ship dock (a 15-minute walk), the petroglyphs are thought to be up to 8,000 years old. It’s best to go at low tide when most of the images are revealed. For the best photographs, wet the rocks with seawater. Resist the temptation to make rubbings; the petroglyphs are currently being studied by archaeologists who suspect rubbings cause damage.

Southeast Alaska’s  in Wrangell, Alaska

Be sure to stroll along the harbor. It has long been one of Southeast Alaska’s busiest you’ll see canneries, shipping docks, fishing boats and logging tugs in constant motion. If you’re lucky, you might see a freight-laden hovercraft roar into the harbor. The huge vessel, owned by a Canadian gold-mining company on the Iskut River, hauls tons of ore daily by way of the Stikine River.

the Mt. Dewey Trail in Wrangell, Alaska

For good views of Wrangell and its surroundings, take the Mt. Dewey Trail, a half-mile hike that starts at the end of 3rd Street and takes you to a viewpoint where John Muir once camped. There are several other hiking trails outside of town and an extensive network of Forest Service roads.

Anan Wildlife in Wrangell, Alaska

 If you’re spending a full day in Wrangell during late July or August, put the Anan Wildlife Observatory at the top of your list. Located about an hour’s jet-boat ride from town, this is one of the rare spots where you can watch brown and black bears feed on spawning salmon. The visitors center maintains a list of guides and outfitters with Forest Service permits to operate on this run.

Wildlife tours along the Stikine River also are offered by local jet boat owners. Thousands of shore birds reside along the river, as do sea lions.