Aleutians East Borough Alaska Beach
Photo Credit: DCCED Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Community Photo Library

Eastern Aleutians: Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove

Eastern Aleutians: Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove

Sweeping westward from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula through the top of the Aleutian Islands, the Eastern Aleutians are located in one of the world's most beautiful, dramatic regions. Here, nestled among active volcanoes, sea-sculpted coastline, and mile after mile of wild landscape, the adventurous traveler can explore ancient Unangan village sites, visit agate beaches, view an array of birds, mammals, and marine life, or enjoy unparalleled fishing opportunities.

The region is home to the communities of Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove, and Sand Point.


Akutan is a scenic Unangan village on Akutan Island with a population of about 700 people who live beneath the active 4,275-foot Akutan Volcano. There are no roads in the village, but boardwalks provide easy paths through the small community.

The community provides most visitor services and attracts adventurous hikers who wish to climb to the crater of the volcano, which is seven miles west of the village, or hike to a thermal hot spring for a soak. Akutan and the surrounding islands teem with birds and sea life. The whiskered auklet is found on the nearby Baby Islands, one of only two places in the world where this species can be found. Some of the largest halibut in the world have been caught in Akutan Pass on the west side of the island.


Clustered around its namesake bay at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, the community of Cold Bay serves as an important regional transportation hub and as the gateway to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The 417,533-acre Izembek National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960 to protect some 142 species of birds, primarily the Pacific brant goose. Almost the entire North American population of brant, numbering 150,000, arrives in spring and fall during the annual migration to feed on the large eelgrass beds in Izembek Lagoon. When the salmon are running, brown bear densities in the refuge can be among the highest in Alaska, with as many as six bears per mile along some streams. The waters around the refuge are populated with harbor seals, sea otters, walrus, and Steller sea lions.

An 11-mile road connects Cold Bay to the Izembek Lagoon where most of the wildlife viewing takes place. Cold Bay has limited services for tourists including lodging and tour operators that will take visitors into the refuge. The refuge's visitor center features displays, a small book counter, and other information on the area.


A picturesque fishing village, False Pass is located on the tip of Unimak Island. The mostly barren area is home to 27 of the 46 most active volcanoes in the U.S. The town attracts a small number of visitors who arrive aboard the Alaska Marine Highway ferry, which runs twice per month during the summer. Many visitors come to view wildlife, for fishing, or to become immersed in the Unangan culture. One of the favorite activities is beachcombing the shoreline for Japanese glass balls that have detached from fishing nets and floated across the North Pacific. Day trips include a boat ride to the abandoned village of Morzhovi.

False Pass earned its name because the Bering Sea side of the strait is so shallow that it is impassable by large vessels. The community of about 60 residents is the only surviving Unangan village on Unimak Island, which is the largest island in the Aleutian Island chain. Today False Pass survives on commercial salmon fishing and fishing services as it is an important refueling stop for Bristol Bay and Bering Sea fleets.


A short hop across the bay from the community of Cold Bay is King Cove, a bustling fishing port of over 1,100 residents at the west end of the Alaska Peninsula. King Cove is a full-service community welcoming visitors drawn by wildlife viewing opportunities. Bears are abundant, and in the spring and early fall whales can be seen migrating through Belkofski Bay.

King Cove was founded in 1911 when Pacific American Fisheries built a salmon cannery, which operated continuously until 1976 when it was partially destroyed by fire. Peter Pan Seafoods later rebuilt the facility.

Although a proposed 27-mile road from King Cove to the Cold Bay Airport is under consideration, for now passengers travel by boat between the two communities.


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