Bald eagle in Alaska
Photo Credit: ATIA

Birding from Ketchikan to Wrangell

Birding from Ketchikan to Wrangell

Mid-March marks an influx of migratory birds to Alaska, intent on reaching their summer breeding grounds. The first region to welcome them is the Inside Passage, where birders can delight in this six-day spring tour that’ll bring them up close and personal with thousands of migrating birds.

Day 1: Ketchikan

Take an early morning flight from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska’s “First City,” where you can catch the Alaska Hummingbird Festival throughout the entire month of April. Tailor the rest of your trip around festival events, including guided birding hikes, art shows, and other festivities. Amongst your birding adventures, consider adding in a visit to Totem Bight State Historical Park to see a breathtaking collection of Tlingit totem poles, or even a snorkeling tour to check out the stunning variety of life in the intertidal zone right offshore.

Day 2: Ketchikan

Spend the afternoon exploring downtown Ketchikan, where local galleries host art shows associated with the Alaska Hummingbird Festival. Make sure you also visit Creek Street, a historical district of boardwalks built on pilings over Ketchikan Creek, which runs straight through the middle of town. Enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at one of Ketchikan’s many downtown eateries before you board the afternoon Inter-Island Ferry for a three-hour sailing to the port town of Hollis on nearby Prince of Wales Island, the fourth-largest island in the United States. You’ll spend the night in Hollis.

Day 3: Prince of Wales Island

Grab your binoculars, rent a car, and head out for one of the best days of bird watching in your life. Prince of Wales Island is criss-crossed with old logging roads that you can drive or hike, or hire one of the local tour operators to take you out in search of birds, other wildlife, or fishing. At the end of your day, make the hour-long drive west through the Tlingit cultural center of Klawock, where you can see masterfully carved totem poles in Klawock Totem Park, and on to Craig, the island’s largest community, where you’ll spend the night.

Day 4: Prince of Wales Island

Greet the day by strolling Craig’s bayside cemetery trail, which offers great bird watching opportunities. You’ll have just enough time to squeeze in another day hike in Tongass National Forest or a quick kayak paddle along the island’s shoreline before you hop a regional flight back to Ketchikan, where you’ll spend the night before flying on to Wrangell. Or, if the ferry schedules line up, you can take a six-hour Alaska Marine Highway ferry sailing from Ketchikan to Wrangell.

Day 5: Wrangell

Hop the morning flight from Ketchikan to Wrangell. Be sure to time your arrival in this historical community to catch some or all of the Stikine River Birding Festival, which takes place at the end of April each year. The annual festival celebrates the largest springtime concentration of bald eagles in North America, but eagles are just the beginning. You’ll also have opportunities to spot dozens of other bird species and attend lectures, art classes, and other fun birding-themed events. Before you turn in for the night, consider taking the mile-long stroll to Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, where you can see ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks strewn along the beach.

Day 6: Wrangell

Amongst all the fun birding activities available this weekend, consider adding something unexpected to your itinerary: Golf! The Stikine River Birding Festival features a tournament at the local Muskeg Meadows Golf Course, a USGA regulation nine-hole course, but you can also just play a round on your own. All equipment, including clubs and carts, is available for rent, and it’s a fun and active way to spend some more time outdoors appreciating the local scenery. If golf isn’t your thing, visit Chief Shakes Island, where a replica Tlingit tribal house sits on a small island in Wrangell Harbor. When you’re ready, daily afternoon jet service from Wrangell to Seattle and beyond will get you home.


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