Alaskan Cabin Comforts
With more than 90 percent of its area protected as national monument wilderness, 100-mile-long Admiralty Island has Southeast Alaska's largest intact expanse of old-growth rain forest. That forest is home to some 1,200 brown bears or about one bear for every square mile. No wonder, then, that Tlingit Indians named the island Kootznoowoo, or "Fortress of the Bears." Those bears are most easily seen at Pack Creek, a viewing area co-managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game; but visitors may encounter bears anywhere on the island.
Bears and More
The forest is also home to Sitka black-tailed deer, beavers, squirrels, river otters, mink, and the nation's densest population of nesting bald eagles: Researchers have located nearly 1,000 eagle nests along the island's wooded perimeter. Both eagles and bears feed heavily on the five species of Pacific salmon that return to spawn in hundreds of Admiralty's streams.
Along the coast, Admiralty's waters are inhabited by sea otters, sea lions, seals, porpoises, killer and humpback whales, and diverse populations of shorebirds and seabirds. Kayakers who come here can therefore combine wilderness paddling with some of Alaska's finest wildlife-viewing opportunities.
Forest Service Cabins
Fifteen public-use cabins managed by the Forest Service are scattered around Admiralty, but only a few of them are along the coast. The large majority are on inland lakes, including several on the east-west Cross Admiralty Canoe Route. Two public cabins (Church Bight and Pybus Bay) are located near Admiralty's southern end, while a third is at the northern tip. The latter, at Admiralty Cove, is only 10 air miles from Alaska's capital, Juneau, and is easily reached by either plane or boat. Located in the forest about a half-mile from the beach, this 14-by-16-foot cabin sleeps six and is heated by a wood stove. Some 60 air miles south of Juneau, the Church Bight and Pybus Bay shelters are A-frame cabins with bunks for five and eight people, respectively, plus loft space; they too are heated by wood stove. All three have tables, chairs or benches, and counter space.
State Park Cabins
There's also an Alaska State Parks cabin, within Oliver Inlet State Marine Park on Admiralty's northwest corner. Located on tidal flats near a popular portage that connects Seymour Canal with Stephens Passage, this cabin is 15 miles from Juneau and can be easily reached only by boat. It sleeps six people and has both an oil and wood stove.
Admiralty Island National Monument
Reservations: Up to 180 days in advance.
Maximum stay: 7 days in summer, 10 in winter.
For more information: U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center, Tongass National Forest, 101 Egan Drive, Juneau, AK 99801, 907/586-8751; call 877/444-6777, toll free, for reservations.
Oliver Inlet State Marine Park
Reservations: Up to 6 months in advance.
Maximum stay: 4 days.
For more information: Alaska State Parks, Southeast Regional Office, 400 Willoughby Ave., Third Floor, Juneau, AK 99801, 907/465-4563.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication