Home to the highest density of brown bears in North America, wildlife activity abounds on this rugged island.
Embracing nearly a million acres of old growth rainforest, alpine tundra, and rugged coastline, Admiralty Island National Monument has been home to the Tlingít people for centuries, and to the brown bear even longer. The Tlingít call this island "Kootznoowoo," meaning "Fortress of the Bear," and their name is accurate.
Located 15 miles southwest of Juneau, Admiralty Island is bounded on the east and north by Stephens Passage, on the west by Chatham Strait and on the south by Frederick Sound. Admiralty is a rugged island, with mountains that rise to 4,650 feet and covered by tundra and even permanent icefields. Numerous lakes, rivers and open areas of muskeg break up the coastal rain forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. More than 90 percent of the monument is designated as the Kootznoowoo Wilderness while the lone community is Angoon, a predominantly Tlingit village at the mouth of Mitchell Bay on the west side of the island.
The 956,155-acre monument is home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears, the highest concentration anywhere in the world, and more brown bears than the rest of the states combined. The island also has the world's greatest concentration of nesting bald eagles. More than 5,000 eagles live on Admiralty Island and average a nest every mile along the coastline of Seymour Canal.
Admiralty Island has a variety of other wildlife as well. Bays such as Mitchell, Hood, Whitewater and Chaik contain harbor seals, porpoises and sea lions. Humpback whales can often be spotted feeding in Seymour Canal. Sitka black-tailed deer are plentiful, and the streams choke with all five species of Pacific salmon that spawn in July and August.
Admiralty Island is best known for bear viewing at Pack Creek, preserved as the Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary. Most visitors to Pack Creek arrive on float planes from Juneau just for the day. Upon arrival, they are met by a ranger and then hike a mile-long trail to an observation tower from which they can watch brown bears feed on spawning salmon.
Kayaking in Seymour Canal is also popular; with an expansive 32-mile trail system that links eight major lakes and seven portages, paddlers can travel from the east end of Mitchell Bay to Mole Harbor in Seymour Canal. Other popular activities include hunting, fishing, bird watching, nature study and photography.
Scattered across Admiralty Island are 14 Forest Service cabins that can be rented and two free-use shelters. Many of the cabins are located on inland lakes and can be reached from the Cross-Admiralty Canoe Route. The 32-mile trail system links eight major lakes and seven portages and allows paddlers to travel from the east end of Mitchell Bay to Mole Harbor in Seymour Canal.
Kayaking in Seymour Canal is also popular as are hunting, fishing, bird watching, nature study and photography.
No camping is allowed at Pack Creek but a camping area is maintained on nearby Windfall Island for kayakers visiting Pack Creek.
There are overnight accommodations and limited visitor services, including canoe rental, in Angoon and a commercial lodge on Thayer Lake.
There are nightly fees for the Forest Service cabins that can be reserved in advance (877-444-6777, 518-885-3639). There are also fees and permits required for bear viewing at Pack Creek and camping at Windfall Island. Guiding and tour companies receive half the daily permits, leaving 12 for individuals who want to visit Pack Creek on their own.
Primary access to the monument is by boat from Juneau or Angoon or by floatplane from Juneau. There are overnight accommodations at Angoon. Facilities in the monument include one commercial lodge on Thayer Lake and scattered shelters and 18 recreation cabins maintained by the Forest Service. Cabins are on a reservation basis. Follow the link below for more information on cabins.
Both southbound and northbound Alaska Marine Highway ferries stop at Angoon on the run from Sitka to Juneau and the village is also serviced with scheduled seaplane air service from Juneau. Primary access to other parts of the monument is by charter boat or floatplane from Juneau.
For more information contact Admiralty Island National Monument Headquarters (907-586-8800) in Juneau.