A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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KODIAK: Archipelago boasts bears, russian heritage and a saint.
"So secluded, so remote, so peaceful," wrote John Burroughs of Kodiak Island during the 1899 Harriman Expedition, "such emerald heights, such flowery vales, such blue arms and recesses of the sea, and such vast green solitude stretching away to the west and the north and the south!"
Burroughs saw Kodiak in the summer, but the island charms visitors year-round.
The island owes much of its "vast green" to approximately 70 inches of rain each year. "Rain or shine" is a Kodiak motto. Yet thick spruce forests provide sheltered walks on stormy days, and there are multiple museums to fill a rainy afternoon with the fascinating history of Kodiak, a community of approximately 13,000.
Alutiiq culture stretching back 7,000 years is preserved at the Alutiiq Museum, which supports modern Alutiiq art and language programs in Kodiak and the six villages around the island: Old Harbor, Larsen Bay, Karluk, Akhiok, Port Lions and Ouzinkie. From 1792 to 1808, Kodiak was the equivalent of the capital of Russian America, when Russian colonists arrived for the sea otter trade. This history is housed at the Baranov Museum, a 200-year-old warehouse originally built to store seal and otter pelts.
Today, Kodiak is home to Alaska's largest fishing fleet. Walking tours are offered year-round by the Kodiak Maritime Museum, providing a glimpse into commercial fishing and seafood processing.
"People love to hear stories about what life in a fishing town is like," said Toby Sullivan, KMM Director. "When they can walk right up to a boat in the harbor, and connect the physical harbor with personal stories, it forges a real connection."
From the bridge to Near Island, visitors can watch the fishing industry in action as boats unload their catch at the canneries or line up at the fuel dock, while eagles spiral overhead and sea lions or the occasional pod of orcas cruises through the channel below.
Pack your Travel Scrabble and marshmallows, then pitch a tent or rent a cabin at one of the many recreation areas on Kodiak. The closest campsite to town is at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, where there's a visitor center as well as a World War II military history museum.
Campers at the Pasagshak or Buskin River State Recreation Areas are just steps away from prime angling for silvers in the fall.
Camping is permitted on many beaches including Boat Bay, the most popular surfing beach in Kodiak, with surfboard rentals available at a local scuba diving shop.
Nine (mainly fly-in) public-use cabins are available to rent within the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.
WHERE: Around the Kodiak Archipelago
COST: KNWR cabins start at $45 per night
PHONE: 907-487-2600 or 1-888-408-3514
When John Muir visited the island he wrote, "No green mountains and hills of any country I have seen ... can surpass these." Inspiring views of ocean and mountain peaks are the reward for most Kodiak hikes.
Kodiak Audubon leads a hike every Saturday and Sunday during the summer, meeting at the ferry dock and carpooling to trailheads around Kodiak.
WHERE: Kodiak Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday (June through August)
PHONE: See website for hike leaders
Leave the shore and explore the Kodiak Archipelago as early residents did. Kayak rentals, boat rentals, and guided kayaking tours promise photo ops of otters, porpoises, whales, seals and sea lions.
For a weekend of kayaking, Shuyak Island State Park has protected inner bays and four public-use cabins to rent. Afognak Island State Park has two public-use cabins on Laura and Pillar Lakes.
WHERE: Shuyak and Afognak Islands
COST: Cabins start at $60 on Shuyak and $25 on Afognak per night
Tide pooling, indoors
Kids and adults alike enjoy a hands-on science lesson, feeding octopus and learning about saltwater creatures at the touch tank and saltwater aquarium at the Fisheries Research Center on Near Island, Monday through Friday.
WHERE: 301 Research Court
WHEN: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center downtown offers interactive exhibits of birdcalls, hibernating bears, and the life cycle of salmon.
WHERE: 402 Center Street
WHEN: Summer hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fishing and hunting
Charter operators based out of Kodiak and its villages offer halibut trips and saltwater salmon fishing for cohos and kings. While searching for halibut, one can also hook many species of rockfish, or a Pacific cod.
Fly-in and hike-in river fisherman can catch all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as steelhead, rainbows and Dolly Varden. Along Kodiak's road system there is plenty of opportunity for the independent traveler to find his or her own salmon along the beach or the banks of a spawning stream. Travelers can also rent rafts and gear to float rivers around the island.
All the full-service lodges around the island offer Sitka blacktail deer drop-off hunts, and many cater to the waterfowl hunter. Some outfitters provide more restricted goat and elk hunts, as well as fall and spring Kodiak bear hunts.
WHERE: Around the archipelago
WHEN: See fishing and hunting regulations
COST: One-day nonresident sport fishing license fee $20
PHONE: 907-486-5176 (Kodiak Sport Fishing Recording)
WEB: For Kodiak Island hunting and sport fishing regulations
Approximately 3,500 Kodiak brown bears, a subspecies of the grizzly bear and the largest bears in the world, live on the Kodiak Archipelago. The secret to spotting a Kodiak bear for free is to visit in late August, when you often see bears on the road system along salmon spawning streams and rivers.
Visitors determined to see the world-famous bears can book half-day flight-seeing trips, or, between June and August, spend the day at Frazer Lake, where Kodiak bears feast on salmon near the Alaska Department of Fish & Game fish ladder. Another grizzly-viewing option is the one-hour flight to Katmai National Park on the mainland.
WHERE: Around the island
WHEN: July through September
COST: Half-day trips start at $450 a seat
Kodiak Maritime Museum
The Kodiak Maritime Museum is currently building a permanent outdoor exhibit highlighting salmon fishing and the 1964 tsunami. On guided walking tours, visitors can explore both harbors and cannery row, talk to fishermen, and pose for photos next to Bering Sea crab boats featured on Discovery Channel's "The Deadliest Catch."
WHERE: Downtown Kodiak
COST: $25 per person for a 90-minute tour
This museum focuses on the history of Kodiak from the Russian era beginning in 1741 through the early American era, including the impact of the 1912 eruption of Mount Novarupta.
WHERE: 101 Marine Way
WHEN: Summer hours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
COST: $5; age 12 and under, free
Explore Alutiiq culture and tradition through photographs, artifacts and stories, and see how this rich heritage continues to inspire the work of Kodiak artists.
WHERE: 215 Mission Road
WHEN: Summer hours, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Tuesdays
COST: $5; age 16 and under, free
Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park
Once a World War II defense installation, Fort Abercrombie State Park is now home to a military history museum, campsites and a visitor's center. There are numerous bunkers to explore along cliffs and walking trails circling Lake Gertrude.
WHERE: Three miles north of town off Rezanof Drive
Each spring, Eastern Pacific gray whales are visible along the shores of Kodiak, traveling from Baja, Mexico, to the Bering Sea. The best places to see them are Narrow Cape and Cape Chiniak. Whale Fest includes lectures, concerts, whale watching hikes and cruises, as well as a community art show.
WHERE: Around Kodiak
WHEN: April 20 through the 30 th
Kodiak Crab Festival
Seal-skinning contests and skin diving from the docks for king crab have been replaced by survival suit races and concerts, but the Crab Festival is still Kodiak's biggest event of the year, held each Memorial Day weekend.
This celebration of Kodiak seafood has evolved into a multicultural culinary event with venders selling pupusas, Filipino barbecue and tamales, as well as halibut, crab and salmon dishes.
Along with carnival booths and the midway, festival-goers can attend the Crab Festival parade, the Great Alaskan Rubber Duck Race, and a Fisherman's Memorial Service.
Participants can compete in a golf tournament, kayak races, the Chad Ogden Ultramarathon, a 41-mile Pasagshak-to-Kodiak bike race, arm wresting championships, the Crab Festival Marathon, or the Pillar Mountain race.
WHEN: May 24 through May 28
WHERE: Downtown Kodiak
Volunteers can explore Alutiiq history alongside an archaeological field crew, studying stone tools, animal bones and midden piles, by participating in the Alutiiq Museum's Community Archaeology program, now in its 15 th season. Teams excavate sites around the island that are threatened by erosion or development.
WHERE: Around Kodiak
WHEN: July or August
Spruce Island Pilgrimage
Each Aug. 9, hundreds of people participate in a pilgrimage to Spruce Island celebrating Father Herman, the first canonized Russian Orthodox saint in North America. Visitors tour Monk's Lagoon, several chapels, and other sites of historical significance. Some visitors also hike to the top of Mount St. Herman. Spruce Island was once a retirement community for the Russian-American Company, and now houses the village of Ouzinkie as well as two monastic communities, St. Michael Skete and St. Nilus Skete on a small nearby island. Chartered tours of Spruce Island are possible year-round.
WHERE: Spruce Island
WHEN: Aug. 9, Visitors leave from the small boat harbor
Kodiak Salmon Sportfishing Tournaments
The Kodiak King Salmon Sportfishing Tournament takes place from mid-May to the end of July. Proceeds benefit the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, which is building returns of king salmon along the Kodiak road system. The hatchery stocks the American and Olds rivers, and Monashka Creek.
In June, the Kiwanis sponsor a kids' Pink Salmon Jamboree with prizes for all participants. The Kodiak Lions Club holds a Kodiak Silver Salmon Derby from late August through September.
WHERE: Kodiak Island waters
WHEN: King Salmon Derby (May through July)
Kodiak State Fair and Rodeo
The Fairgrounds in Bells Flats houses a weekend farmer's market from June through September with venders selling local produce, baked goods, jams and herbs.
On Labor Day weekend the fairgrounds are the site of the Kodiak State Fair and Rodeo. Cattle and bulls are brought over from the mainland for events like barrel racing, pole bending, calf roping, bull riding, wild cow milking and a Rodeo Queen contest.
Local nonprofits run games and sell food on the midway, while community judges award prizes for entries ranging from salmonberry wine to cupcakes to rabbits.
WHERE: Fairgrounds in Bells Flats
WHEN: Sept. 1-2
COST: $11 per person, $35 for a family of 4