Alaska's southeast panhandle is a scattering of wildlife-rich islands, national forests, glacier-carved landscapes and secluded port towns rich in local culture. Travelers can explore the glaciers of Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay National Park. Cities like Sitka and Petersburg, offer an eclectic variety of cultures, from historic Russian whaling stations, to a traditional Scandinavian fishing community. The nutrient-rich waters of Frederick Sound and Point Adolphus provide ideal habitat for humpback whales and orcas -- wildlife enthusiasts and scientists alike, flock to the area to admire the abundant whale populations.
Prince William Sound
Near the Chugach Mountains is Prince William Sound. This region is less traveled than the Inside Passage, but rivals the panhandle's natural beauty and wildlife viewing. College Fjord includes the Sound's largest collection of glaciers. The narrow Esther Passage is a popular habitat for sea otters, puffins and other aquatic wildlife, while Icy Bay hides the beautiful Chenega Glacier. The Sound is also homes to the fishing village, Cordova, world famous for its Copper River Salmon.
A cruise of the Bering Sea explores Alaska's Pribilof Islands, where fur seals and puffins crowd rocky coastline. Additional ports of call include Dutch Harbor and Nome, a city legendary for its dogsled race, the Iditarod. From the Bering Sea, small ships easily access the shores of Russia's Chukotka Peninsula. This isolated region offers refuge to traditional villages, as well as vast numbers of marine wildlife. The Bering Sea is also a gateway to the Arctic Circle.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay is made up of over 5,100 square miles of superb natural wonders, including 16 tidewater glaciers. Located in the panhandle, this coastal park teems with humpback whales and orcas. Bald eagles, sea otters, and seals are also frequently seen in Glacier Bay. Five species of Pacific salmon are found in the park's streams, creating a haven for bears.
Alaska's native peoples make up 15 percent of the overall population. There are literally of local villages where people still live the traditional way, practicing whaling, subsistence hunting and maintaining native arts like totem carving. Native museums and galleries are found in such cities as Anchorage and Ketchikan. Dog-sledding is still practiced in the winter; its roots trace back to 15th century Eskimos.
Denali National Park
Denali is home to the 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America. The park and preserve are made up of an impressive 6 million acres. Denali is located in the middle of the state, straddling the Alaska Range. It is a sub-arctic ecosystem that supports a myriad of life. Grizzly bears, moose and wolves roam its slopes between herds of dall sheep and caribou.
Salmon, halibut, rainbow trout, northern pike -- Alaska is the definitive angler's dream. While there are excellent fishing sites throughout the state, the Inside Passage combines outstanding catches with incredible landscape. Coastal cities like Petersburg, Ketchikan, Juneau and Haines offer a variety of fishing trips for the novice to experienced. Many operators will also pack and ship your catch home to enjoy long after returning from your Alaskan adventure.
The Gold Rush and Ghost Towns
Alaska's Klondike Gold Rush lasted from 1898 to 1914. Thousands of young hopefuls, or "stampeders" migrated to towns like Skagway, the gateway to the infamous Chilkoot Trail. Today, the remnants of the historic Gold Rush are a fascinating reminder of our country’s past and the optimistic explorers who forged the wilds of Alaska over a century ago. Ghost towns haunt the landscape and the spirit of dreamers and entrepreneurs remain an authentic part of modern-day Alaskan culture.