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Stikine-LeConte Wilderness

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An iceberg sits at the edge of LeConte Bay. The water mirrors the iceberg, which looks like a frozen blue wave of ocean water.
Library image #2032: Icebergs in LeConte Bay, Tongass National Forest.

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 448,926 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Forest Service.

Description

The mighty Stikine River is the lifeline flowing through this wilderness. It is North America's fastest, free flowing navigable river. LeConte Glacier also flows through the wilderness, if a bit slower. LeConte is North America's southern most tidewater glacier, depositing icebergs into LeConte Bay. Glaciers have sculpted the granite bedrock into the U-shaped valley of the Stikine River. For centuries that valley has served as a corridor through the Coast Range for wildlife and humans, including native peoples and the rush for gold. The Stikine River valley, with its thick forest and side sloughs, provides a Wilderness playground for boaters. There are opportunities for tranquil paddling as well as speedy motorboat rides. One moment you may be watching a lone moose or brown bear venturing to the edge of River and the next, meeting a group of fun-loving visitors at Chief Shakes Hot Springs. The wilderness includes the River's estuary with extensive grasslands and delta mudflats as the river reaches the Pacific Ocean. The Stikine-LeConte Wilderness boasts: Kate's Needle at 10,002 ft- the highest peak on the Tongass National Forest; the Stikine Ice fields - the largest ice field on the Tongass National Forest; the world's largest spring concentration of bald eagles (up to 1500); and a major stopover on the Western Flyway with shorebird migration averaging 350,000 birds a day.

Stikine has been a major transportation route for centuries, first beginning with Alaskan native inhabitants and later with fur traders and miners. Today the river remains an important transportation route for the United States and Canada. Many outfitters and guides use it for fly-fishing, hunting, and camping but the highest amount of guiding involves high speed jet boating for nature-based sightseeing tours. Commercial fishing industries transport fish for processing and to the market. The river also supports the mining industry (located on the Canadian side), acting as a conduit for miners and their families, equipment, processing and market transport. The river channel is important culturally for subsistence and sport fishing, hunting, and sightseeing. Twelve public use cabins, 16 special-use permitted cabins, a developed hot springs, two hiking trails, and swimming area provide a variety of recreational activities for visitors and the local public along the banks of the river.

This 449,951 acre wilderness is east of Petersburg and north of Wrangell, on the mainland. It includes the Stikine River watershed and the LeConte Bay watershed and icefields, from the Canadian boundary to the sea. The boundary extends from Frederick Sound on the west to the Alaska-Canada boundary on the east. The Stikine River valley and LeConte Bay receive moderate to high use in the summer. The Stikine River is an 1871 Treaty River for commerce between the United States and Great Britain. The adjacent icefields remain wild and remote.

The most frequently used means of access is small boat. Some access is by paddleboat and float plane during the summer or by snowmachine during the winter. The Stikine River provides access via small boat from salt water, through the Wilderness, across the Alaska boundary and into the interior of Canada.

Planning to Visit the Stikine-LeConte 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 Stikine-LeConte 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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