The westernmost city in the United States, the community of Adak is located on the beautiful and windswept Adak Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
ABOUT ADAK (UNANGAM TUNUU: ADAAX)
Adak rewards adventurous visitors with stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and fascinating World War II history. The population of Adak has changed dramatically over the years, ranging from almost 90,000 troops stationed during World War II to about 200 residents today.
Adak is truly a remote community: it is both the westernmost city in the United States and the southernmost city in Alaska. This small island lies in the middle of the Bering Sea about 450 miles west of Dutch Harbor, roughly halfway between the Alaska mainland and Russia. Despite its remoteness, Adak is accessible by regularly scheduled commercial air service, with two flights per week on Alaska Airlines. A three-hour flight from Anchorage will transport visitors to this fascinating island with dramatic mountains and unique recreation opportunities.
Over half of the island is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Adak offers a unique access point as one of the few places where you can hike into the refuge; most of the remote refuge is only accessible by sea. Much of the remainder of the island is owned by the Aleut Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation owned by the Unangax̂ people who have called this place home for thousands of years.
THINGS TO DO
For adventurous and self-sufficient travelers who don’t require too many visitor services, Adak offers opportunities for hiking, birding, fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography. The island’s rugged mountains drop straight into the ocean and provide a stunning backdrop for hiking and backcountry camping across the nearly treeless rolling green tundra. There are very few designated trails on the island so visitors should have experience with backcountry safety and navigation. Husky Pass, Shagak Bay, and Lake Betty are some of the few designated trails on the island, along with old World War II roads that can be use for hiking and biking.
As the gateway to the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the US Fish and Wildlife Service operates a visitor center in Adak where you can pick up hiking maps, brochures, and talk to staff about recreation opportunities within the refuge. Please note that much of the island belongs to the Aleut Corporation and visitors must obtain a land use permit for outdoor recreation on these lands.
Adak Island is a spectacular destination for birding, home to resident bird species along with a wide range of migratory birds – including some rare species that can’t be seen anywhere else in the United States. Several birding tours operators offer multi-day birding trips to the island. Clam Lagoon, located along the island’s road system, is a popular spot for birding and wildlife viewing including seals, sea otters, and sea lions. Caribou were introduced to the island by the military in the 1950s and have grown to a herd of about 3,000 animals today.
Saltwater fishing for halibut, salmon, rockfish, and cod is a popular activity from Adak and a couple of local outfitters operate fishing charters for visitors. The island’s many streams and lakes are home to four species of Pacific salmon (sockeye, coho, pink, and chum) along with rainbow trout and Dolly Varden, making Adak a great spot for freshwater fishing, as well.
Adak is well known for known for its military history. The US military used Adak as a major base during the Aleutian Campaign of World War II, which stayed active as a base throughout the Cold War due to its strategic location. Visitors can explore several World War II historical sites in town along with many sites along the road system outside of town. The city of Adak is also home to a wide array of abandoned buildings that make for interesting sightseeing in town.
The largest accommodation on the island is Adak Island Inn, comprised of 40 townhouse units, which also rents out vehicles. There are also several smaller lodging options in town, many of which are run by outfitters that also rent gear, lead fishing charters, and rent vehicles. The town’s limited services include a restaurant/bar, post office, gas station, and small grocery store. Most visitors to the island bring their own food due to limited shopping and dining options.
Adak Island is the traditional homeland of the Unangax̂ people. The Unangax̂ population was devastated during Russian exploration and fur trade in the 1800s, and further declined during World War II when many communities were forcibly relocated to internment camps in other parts of the state. During World War II, the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor on June 3, 1942, to the east of Adak, and occupied Attu and Kiska Islands several days later, to the west. Adak became an important military base to protect the Aleutian Islands from further occupation. Around 90,000 troops were on the island on 1943 during the build up to reclaiming Attu and Kiska Island from the Japanese. After World War II, Adak became a strategically important military base during the Cold War.
The Adak Naval Station closed in 1997, leading to a significant decline in the island’s population and shuttering of many of its buildings. In 2004, the Department of the Interior transferred ownership of over 47,000 acres of land and many former military buildings on Adak Island to the Aleut Corporation through a Land Transfer Agreement, returning the land to the Unangax̂ people.
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