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South Prince of Wales Wilderness

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A large black boat, traveling up the shoreline, with forest hills in the background.
Library image #508: Tongass Ranger boat, used as field crew camp for WZ monitoring.

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the South Prince of Wales Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 86,777 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Forest Service.

Description

The southwestern corner of Prince of Wales Island, a complex network of bays and inlets, and a cluster of islands known as the Barrier Islands make up this Wilderness. On Prince of Wales Island, the topography of the southern portion of the area undulates gently around numerous streams, lakes, and wetlands. In the northern portion the terrain rises abruptly to over 2,500 feet. Precipitation in excess of 100 inches per year has created a lush forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, and western red cedar with a ground cover of shrubs and grasses. The Barrier Islands are composed of approximately 75 small islands, ranging from a few acres to over 500 acres, and many smaller rocks. Frequent and fierce storms of the vast North Pacific buffet these islands. Tidal surges can be sudden and powerful among these attractive little bits of land. One of the first Haida villages in southeast Alaska, Klinkwan, was established in the 1800s, and then abandoned in 1911, with most of the population settling in Hydaburg. An old cannery was located in Hunter Bay, but little evidence remains. Many of the streams have major coho, sockeye, pink, or chum salmon runs. Black bears, wolves, and Sitka black-tailed deer are common. Quite a few small mammals, waterfowl, seabirds, and bald eagles also call this area home. Humpback whales, Steller's sea lions, and seals are often sighted, and sea otters are especially plentiful, as well as a wide variety of shellfish and other marine food sources. There are no developed trails or facilities in South Prince of Wales Wilderness, but lots of opportunities for solitude and exploration. When you visit, you'll find an exemplary southeastern Alaska Wilderness, remote and seldom visited by humans.

Planning to Visit the South Prince of Wales Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the South Prince of Wales Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.



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