Wrangell is located on the northern tip of Wrangell Island, an island in the Alaska Panhandle. It is 250 km (155 miles) south of the Alaskan capital of Juneau. It is across the narrow Zimovia Strait from the mouth of the Stikine River on the Alaska mainland. The town is named after the island, which was named after Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, a Russian explorer and the administrator of the Russian-American Company from 1840 to 1849. It's an unpretentious little town that, until recently, relied heavily on the timber industry for its livelihood. This is the more typical Southeast Alaska town of the not-so-very-long-ago when only a few small cruise ships and the Alaska ferry tucked into the dock.
Wrangell is older than its neighbor, Petersburg, with a history that weaves together threads of the ancient Tlingit culture and the cultures of three world powers-Russia, Britain, and the United States-who have occupied the region in more recent times. When Wrangell's sawmill, the largest private industry in town, closed in 1994, it took a big chunk out of the local economy. Recently, the mill has been revived on a smaller scale, exporting the main woods of the forest here-cedar, spruce, and hemlock-and supporting independent woodsmen and artisans in town. The small fishing fleet still pulls in salmon, halibut, shrimp, crab, and herring. While the town is trying hard to develop a tourist industry, it still retains its gritty mill-town character.
Although Wrangell was founded by Russian traders in the early 1800s, the Tlingits long dominated the region. Perhaps the greatest carver in the history of the Tlingit nation lived here 200 years ago. The Wrangell Museum holds four of his totem poles, thought to be the oldest Tlingit house posts in existence. A replica of a clan house on Shakes Island, in the city harbor, contains copies of the old posts, crafted by modern master carvers.
Things to do
Enjoy the spectacular beauty of majestic snowcapped peaks of the Coastal Range. The mountains surrounding the Stikine River offer outstanding flightseeing aerial views of LeConte, Shakes and Great Glaciers and the towering Devil's Thumb and Cathedral Peaks. The Stikine River offers beautiful clear water tributaries along its glacial fed expanse. Experience the thrill of jet boating or enjoy a slow float trip by raft while being surrounded by unsurpassed Alaskan wilderness at it’s best. Enjoy paddling by canoe or kayak on area waters with expert local guides.
Visit Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory just south of Wrangell Island on the mainland. Anan Creek is accessible by boat or float plane. In July and August, black and brown bears feast on Southeast Alaska’s largest run of pink salmon. The Creek is thick with fish and bears catch the salmon jumping the cascading falls.
Garnets should be every visitor's souvenir of Wrangell. The Garnet Ledge is located at the mouth of the Stikine River and belongs to the children of Wrangell. Children and their families collect the garnets from the rock schist to share with visitors. The site is a historic mine from the late 1800’s, and day permits are available for rock enthusiasts from the Wrangell Museum.
If you prefer to stay in town a local sampler of the best island attractions is available to explore by yourself or on tour. Walking tours of historic and cultural sites, or in the Tongass Rainforest are available by knowledgeable local guides.
If you are a golfer, you will love Muskeg Meadows Golf Course and driving range. Carved from the rainforest, surrounded by the water and mountains, the 9-hole USGA rated course will provide a relaxing diversion.