The Rainforest Islands are a wonderland of natural attractions, including wildlife viewing, waterfalls, caves, glaciers, and estuaries. Watchable wildlife opportunities abound. Embark on a whale watching or bear-viewing excursion along the picturesque coastline. Use the resources below to learn more about our wildlife and unique natural attractions.
The Rainforest Islands diversity of maritime and inland habitats offers birders a variety of bird watching opportunities. Home to a year-round population of American Bald Eagles, the Islands are the nesting and breeding ground for numerous migrant species of coastal and inland birds. With the large population of native and migrant birds, the Rainforest Islands are the perfect destination for any birder looking to add to his or her “lifelist”.
Stikine River Flats: The bird life on the Stikine River Flats is spectacular. Listed as one of the nation’s best bird watching sites, the Flats are alive with a myriad of waterfowl and shorebirds. Spring migration (April to mid-May) is the best time to view a diversity of bird life on the Flats. Air and boat charters are available from Wrangell or Petersburg. For more information, contact the Wrangell Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The waters around the Rainforest Islands are a summer feeding ground for humpback whales. It is the perfect spot to get a glimpse of one of the world?s largest creatures. It is possible to see humpback whales from shore or from one of the ferries, but your best bet is taking a guided charter trip. In addition to humpback whales, other marine mammals frequent the region, such as Killer Whales, Dall?s porpoises, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals.
Frederick Sound: Where the waters of Frederick Sound meet Stephens Passage and Chatham Strait, (30 miles north of Petersburg by boat), you will find some of the best humpback whale viewing in North America. Humpback whales are just one of the many marine mammals to be found in these waters. Charter tours are available most days, but reserve ahead. For more information on whale watching in Frederick Sound, contact the Petersburg Visitor’s Center.
Petersburg Marine Mammal Center: Not sure you can tell dolphins from porpoises, or seals from sea lions? Stop by the Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit dedicated to education and research of the local marine mammal population, and learn how to identify these amazing creatures.
The expansive forests of the Rainforest Islands are home to a variety of wildlife, including bear, deer, moose, wolves, and porcupine. During the summer months, bears can often be seen along streams fishing for salmon, or eating berries. These large mammals are fascinating to observe.
Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory: Both brown and black bears frequent Anan Creek during the summer months to feed on pink salmon, bears and other fish eaters can be seen from the observatory, which is operated by the US Forest Service. There is a half-mile trail leading to the observation deck. Forest Service staff at the trailhead provide safety information. Guides charted from town will transport you to the site and escort you to the observation area. For more information contact, the Wrangell Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Unique Natural Areas
You’ll find one of the most fascinating aspects of Prince of Wales Island under your feet. Northern Prince of Wales has an extensive karst landscape and some 600 caves, including the largest known cave in Alaska, El Capitan. El Capitan is one of the longest mapped caves in the Americas; over two miles of passages have been mapped from the main entrance. In addition to El Capitan, visitors to the area can explore nearby karst areas at Beaver Falls Trail and Cavern Lake Trail.
El Capitan Cave Tour: Call the Thorne Bay Ranger District office at 907-828-3304 at least two days in advance. Tour groups are limited in size to six people. Babies in packs or carriers are not allowed, nor are children under seven years of age. For more information, contact the POW Chamber of Commerce.
Thousands of years ago, rivers of ice carved the spectacular Coastal Mountain Range. You can still see the remnants of the ice age in the magnificent ice fields and glaciers around Petersburg. LeConte Glacier, just east of Petersburg, is a popular attraction, and worth a boat or float plane trip But, even if you can’t get to the glacier, sometimes the glacier comes to you. It is common to see icebergs from LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America, on the beaches around Petersburg.
LeConte Glacier: Take an air or boat tour to LeConte Bay. For more information, contact the Petersburg Visitor Center.