Views of a Russian Orthodox Church in Karluk Alaska on Kodiak Island
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler, Alamy Stock Photo



Located on what is thought to be the best sockeye (red) salmon river in the world and adjacent to the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on Kodiak Island, the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq village of Karluk is an outdoorsperson’s paradise.


Karluk is located in a dramatic setting overlooking the mouth of the Karluk River and Shelikof Strait and surrounded by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. A community of just a few dozen people and one of only two villages on the west side of Kodiak Island, Karluk is an ideal entry point into the refuge.


Known for being the greatest sockeye salmon river in the world, the Karluk River also supports king salmon, Dolly Varden, steelhead, and rainbow trout. A few miles inland, Karluk Lake also has spectacular fishing. Fishing lodges and outfitters on the west side of Kodiak Island offer accommodations, meals, and freshwater and saltwater fishing charters in the area. The Koniag Alaska Native Corporation operates four cabins along the Karluk River for access to the area’s fishing and outdoor recreation.

Most visitors pass through Karluk on the way to fishing lodges or other adventures in the adjacent Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, which covers two-thirds of Kodiak Island, is renowned for its opportunities to view the legendary Kodiak brown bears. Male bears average around 800 pounds but have been known to exceed 1,500 pounds. Approximately 2,300 are found within the boundaries of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. About 180 to 200 of these bears use the 236 square mile Karluk Lake drainage, making it one of the densest populations of bears in the world. Lodges and local outfitters offer opportunities for visitors to spend a day watching these giant bears feed on salmon during the summer.

The influence of Russian traders can still be seen at the Ascension of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Chapel, built in 1888, which is a designated National Historic Site. The church features an unusual half-onion dome, typically seen in Russian architecture, and a spectacular cliff-and-ocean backdrop.


The Karluk River has supported the subsistence fishing of local Alutiiq/Sugpiaq people for more than 7,000 years. The rich runs of salmon led Russian traders to establish a trading post on Karluk Lagoon in 1786, and within a few years, tanneries, salteries, and canneries were being built in the area.


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