Wrangell, Alaska is known for its Garnets, and it is the only city in Alaska to have existed under four nations, Stikine Tlinget Indians, the Russians, Great Britian, and the United States of America.
Location / Coordinates: Part of an unorganized borough, Wrangell, Alaska is located on the northwest edge of Wrangell Island in Southeast Alaska. Wrangell faces the Zimovia Strait, a few miles southwest of the mouth of the Stikine River Delta. Wrangell, Alaska is northwest of Ketchikan about 85 air miles, or 6 hours by ferry, and about 155 miles south of Juneau.
Coordinates Latitude N56.47 & Longitude W-132.38
Population / Elevation: A little over 2,000 people live in Wrangell, Alaska roughly at sea level.
Description: Wrangell, Alaska is a very scenic town, with a small boat harbor filled with colorful fishing boats, cruise ships, and ferries. The
What to do there: The Garnet Festival of Wrangell, Alaska is held the end of April. This festival celebrates the arrival of spring, the large concentration of Bald Eagles that arrives with spring on the Stikine River Delta, and garnets.
At the end of April through the beginning of May several thousand American Bald Eagles come to the Wrangell area to feed on the Hooligan swimming up the middle and north arms of the Stikne River. The delta is also a major stopover on the Pacific Fly Way for over 200,000 shorebirds and several thousand Snow Geese and Sand Hill Cranes. The spring run of small smelt-like fish called “Hooligan” or “Eulechon,” also attracts Steller Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and once in a while an Orca Whale or two.
Wrangell, Alaska is also known for its garnets. The Garnet Ledge, located on the Stikne River Delta, was once owned by the Alaska Garnet Mining and Manufacturing Company. This company was famouse for being composed entirely of women. The purpose of the company was to mine garnets from the ledge near the mouth of the Stikine River, then ship them off to a manufacturing plant in Minneapols to be cut and polished.
The Garnet Ledge was purchased by former Wrangell Mayor, Fred G. Hanford in the early 1960s and then deeded to the Southeast Alaska Area Council of the boy Scouts of America. The deed stated “..for only so long as the said grantee… shall use the land for Scouting purposes and shall permit the children of Wrangell to take garnets there from in reasonable quantities.”
The children of Wrangell, Alaska mine their garnets in the early spring and sell them to tourist during the summer season. Permits are needed for non-Wrangell children to dig garnets. Permits can be obtained from the Boy Scout office Juneau.
The Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park has some Tlingit and Tsimshian petroglyphs that can be seen between low and high tide marks.
There are hiking trails, the Anan Wildlife Observatory, the Wrangell Museum, King Salmon fishing—Kings weighing in at 50 pounds or more are not uncommon. Glacier viewing, and history to be experienced in Wrangell, Alaska.
History: Wrangell, Alaska is one of the oldest non-native settlements in Alaska. Fur harvesting brought Russian traders in the early 1800s. They built a stockade named the Redoubt Saint Dionysius. The island itself is named after Ferdinand Von Wrangel, the manager of the Russian-American Company. In the 1840s the British Hudson Bay Company leased the fort from the Russians and renamed it Fort Stikine.
The Stikine Indian (Tlingit) village known as Kotzlitzna, located a few miles south of the fort, protested the Hudson Bay Company’s use of the Tlinget’s trade routes. Smallpox, introduced to the Tlingits by the British, wiped out about half of the Indian population. Furs were depleted in the mid 1880s and the fort was abandoned. The fort remained under British rule until the purchase of Alaska from the Russians by the Americans in 1867. The Americans established a military post in 1868 and named it Fort Wrangell—named for the island.
Wrangell, Alaska became an outfitter for gold prospectors in the mid and late 1800s. Miners traveling up the Stikine river and into the Cassiar District of British Columbia brought with them all of the trappings of the gold rush. Wrangell, Alaska sported gambling halls, dance halls, booze, and lawlessness.
After the gold rush to the Klondike ended in the late 1890s, the Glacier Packing Company began operating in the area. The Wilson & Sylvester Sawmill arrived shortly there after. Canneries and lumber were the new industries in Wrangell, Alaska. By the mid 1900s a cold storage plant had been built nd cold packing of crab and shrimp was occurring.
Commercial fishing, fish processing, and timber still are the mainstays for Wrangell’s economy today. Wrangell also caters to the smaller cruise ships, and sportfishing, scenery, and wildlife bring tourists.
How to get there: Wrangell, Alaska is accessible by air and sea. The Wrangell Airport has a lighted, paved runway and scheduled air taxi service is available. The Alaska State Ferry system services Wrangell as well as the freight ferry system from Juneau and Ketchikan.
Facilities: Wrangell, Alaska has several Inns, Lodges, and B&Bs. There is a hostel that is open during the summer season. Tent camping is available. A few little cafes and a bakery round out the eating establishments. There are laundomats, banks, and of course gift shops for souvenirs.
RV info: There are RV sites—no hookups, in the harbor parking lot. There are other RV facilities with hookups closer to town.