Small Towns of Inner Passage

The Inner Passage of SE Alaska is not heavily populated. Juneau, the state capital, has a population of only 32,000. Sitka and Ketchikan are two other larger places, with populations in the 8,000 range. On Our recent cruise on Alaskan Dream we stopped at three smaller towns which are all interesting with strong heritages. Those are Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake.


Wrangell is the largest of the three. It is situated near the mouth of the Stikine River and is one of the oldest towns in Alaska. It is also the only town in Alaska to have existed under three flags and be ruled by four nations: Tlingit, Russia, England and the United States.

Wrangell is located on the northwest tip of Wrangell Island, and is known for its Tlingit culture, wildlife viewing and exploration on the beautiful Stikine River. Just north of town is the Petroglyph Beach Historic Park, where one can see primitive rock carvings believed to be 8,000 years old.

In late June through August, one of Southeast Alaska’s largest pink salmon run enters Anan Bay and heads up Anan Creek, 30 miles south of Wrangell. From an observatory at Anan Wildlife Observatory one can watch eagles, seals, Black and brown bears feeding on the spawning humpies.

Fishing is another activity to be enjoyed in Wrangell.

Accomodations in Wrangell include the Stikine Inn, and the “Stik”, an excellent dining spot within the hotel.


We then visited the charming Mitkof Island community of Petersburg. Nicknamed “Alaska’s Little Norway”, the community was founded by Norwegian fishermen and is named after the Norwegian immigrant, Peter Buschmann. He arrived in the area in the late 1890’s and noticed that the clean and plentiful ice off the nearby LeConte glacier could serve as an invaluable source for fish packing. Over the next decade he built the Icy Strait Packing Company, a swamill and a dock. IN 1916, Alaskan Glacier Seafoods was established.

Today, Petersburg remains heavily populated by people of Scandinavian descent. Many homes qare painted bright colors. The Sons of Norway Hall has become an icon of the community.


Located 38 miles northwest of Petersburg in the Inside Passage region, this community of 570 residents is the historical home for the Kake tribe of Tlingits who controlled the trade routes around Kuiu and Kuprenof Islands. The water s around Kake are rich with halibut and salmon, making it an angler’s paradise. Kake is also home to the largest congregation of humpback whales in Alaska. Kake boasts a 128 foot totem pole, one of the world’s largest carved for the Alaska Purchase Centennial.

Glacier Bay

We recently took a one week cruise on Alaskan Dream, a 40 passenger catamaran operated by the company of the same name. The cruise was focused on the Inland Passage of SE Alaska. This is a great way to see this spectacular area, starting in Juneau and ending up in Sitka. We only had 27 passengers, serviced by a crew of 17 led by Captain Eric Morrow. Every day was an adventure, the food was wonderful and the social setting lovely.

Our first day was spent touring Glacier Bay, a national monument established in 1925, and officially made a national park in 1980. The bay is 65 miles in length, running north from Icy Strait. It was first visited by Capt. George Vancouver in 1794, when the bay was covered in ice out to Icy Strait. Eighty five years later, John Muir visited by canoe and found the glacier receding as fast as a mile per year..

A boat tour north from Gustavius is fascinating, beautiful and full of interest – glaciers, mountains, bird life, whales, seals and so on. The smaller ship of course can access the glaciers very closely.

LeConte Glacier

LeConte Glacier, the continent’s southermost tidewater glacier, is a shorth boat ride away from Petersburg, Alaska. It was named after biologist Joseph LeConte. It is well known for its “shooterss”, which are icebergs that calve off the glacier underwater and shoot up to the surface.

We were fortunate to get a half day tour of the glacier with Seek Alaska Tours out of Petersburg. The ride was rather bumpy up the river, and got more interesting as our pilot began dodging the multitude of icebergs floating away from the glacier’s face. Time at the face was fascinating, as we watched and heard frequent incidents of ice calving off the face.