The city of Kodiak sits on Kodiak Island, which at 3,670 square miles and more than 100 miles long is Alaska's largest island and the second-largest island in the United States. Known as the Emerald Isle, Kodiak’s verdant landscape and abundant outdoor opportunities make it a popular choice for nature enthusiasts.
About Kodiak (Sugpiaq: Sun’aq)
The pulse of Kodiak beats along the waterfront and in its boat harbors: Alaska Marine Highway ferries dock right downtown, next to the Kodiak Island Visitor Center. Nearby is St. Paul Boat Harbor, the city’s largest. More boats dock across the channel at St. Herman Harbor on Near Island, and an afternoon on the docks can lead to friendly encounters with fishermen and the chance to see them unload their catch or repairing their nets.
Once a struggling fishing port, World War II turned the island of Kodiak into a major staging area for North Pacific operations. At one point Kodiak's population topped 25,000, with Fort Abercrombie built as a defense post to protect the naval base that was constructed in 1939. Today the old naval base is the site of the largest Coast Guard base in the country.
Kodiak’s famed cloudy weather spared it from a Japanese attack during World War II but the city wasn’t so lucky during the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, which leveled its downtown area and wiped out its fishing fleet. Today Kodiak is among the top three fishing ports in the country and home to 650 boats, including the state's largest trawl, long-line and crab vessels, and 12 shore-based processors.
Things to do
More than 100 miles of paved and gravel roads head from the city into the wilderness that surrounds Kodiak. Some of the roads are rough jeep tracks, manageable only by four-wheel drive vehicles, but many can be driven to isolated stretches of beach, great fishing spots, outstanding coastal scenery and secluded campgrounds.
The island’s best-known park is the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. The 2,812-square-mile refuge encompasses two-thirds of Kodiak Island and includes a diverse habitat that ranges from rugged mountains and alpine meadows to wetlands, spruce forest and grassland. The refuge has outstanding fishing but the most popular activity is bear viewing. The refuge is home to 3,500 bears with males that normally weigh in at more than 800 pounds but have been known to exceed 1,500 pounds and stand more than 10 feet tall. The refuge has no roads, so bear viewing is done as a day tour with an air charter operator. Or, plan a multi-day bear viewing excursion from one of remote wilderness lodges on the island, such as Alaska Native-owned Kodiak Brown Bear Center & Lodge.
Kodiak is a renowned fishing destination that offers access to all five species of salmon along with halibut, rockfish, cod and trout.
Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park is a popular spot for learning more about the island’s World War II history. The fort was built during the war, and along with a campground features the Kodiak Military History Museum, located inside the Ready Ammo bunker. The historic ruins of the World War II coastal defense installation couples with the steep surf-pounded cliffs, deep spruce forests, wildflower-laden meadows and a lake containing trout.
Native Alutiiq people have inhabited the Kodiak area for more than 7,000 years. In the mid 1700s, the island was discovered by a Russian explorer, ushering in the island’s Russian period. Kodiak was the first capital of Russian-controlled Alaska, and was an important location in the lucrative fur trade. A former storehouse of fur pelts owned by the Russian American Company in downtown Kodiak now houses the Baranov Museum, which is a great place to learn more about the area’s history. The building, constructed in 1808, is the oldest standing building in the state of Alaska.