The United States Congress designated the Kootznoowoo Wilderness (map
) in 1980 and it now has a total of 967,423 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Alaska
and is managed by the Forest Service.
The indigenous people of SE Alaska, the Tlingit, know Admiralty Island by the name Kootznoowoo, the "Bear Fort" or "Fortress of the Bears". Coastal forests of massive Sitka spruce and western hemlock dominate this 100 mile long island at the northern end of the fabled inside passage. The British named it Admiralty but the Russians called it Ostrov Kutsnoi, "Fear Island", probably because Alaskan brown bears (grizzly) outnumber the human inhabitants. Sitka black-tailed deer stay well hidden in the dense forest but bald eagles are easily found in treetops along most beaches. Harbor Seals, Steller sea lions, and Humpback whales feed near rafts of sea ducks such as Scoters and Harlequins. The forest floor lays thickly covered with mosses and blueberry, while muskegs open the tall forest canopy to sedge and sphagnum bogs. Rocky spires break through along the island's high crest with peaks above 3,000 feet. Protected as Admiralty Island National Monument in 1978, all but the northern end of the island was designated Wilderness in 1980.
Visitors and residents alike respect Kootznoowoo as a place to walk carefully amongst the bears. Bear viewing is available during the summer at Pack Creek if you obtain a permit, or in other remote bays with a little extra effort and skill. Sea kayaking is possible in Seymour Canal for those with the time and skills, or for those who employ the services of guides.
While brown bears are the main attraction, a 26-mile canoe trail, including nine miles of portages, bisects the center of the island, connecting a series of lakes between Mole Harbor and Mitchell Bay near Angoon. Paddlers along this trail can choose between seven shelters available free of charge and without reservation, or five remote cabins for a small reservation fee. Seven other cabins are also available on other parts of the island, such as three near Juneau at Admiralty Cove and Young Lake.
The land still sustains around 500 Tlingit who live in the village of Angoon on the western side at the mouth of Mitchell Bay. Visitors are welcome in small numbers but the village is not geared toward tourism. A bed and breakfast and ferry service to Juneau are available but bush life offers few other amenities for visitors and requires an independent spirit.