The United States Congress designated the South Baranof Wilderness (map
) in 1980 and it now has a total of 316,704 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Alaska
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Alexander Baranof, the first governor of Russian America, built his headquarters in nearby Sitka and left his name on this large island (1,600 square miles). Most of the southern extremity of the island (319,568 acres) has been designated the South Baranof Wilderness. Bounded on the west by the Gulf of Alaska, the scenery is stunningly picturesque with granite glacier-scored mountains, long saltwater fjords and hanging lake valleys (Nowacki, 2001). On the east side of the wilderness by Chatham Strait, the saltwater coastline is not as rugged and there is a higher snow accumulation over the whole area. Mount Ada at 4,528 feet, is on this side of the island and is the highest peak in the Wilderness. The top of the mountain is less than three miles from saltwater. Permanent snowfields and active glaciers blanket the high country above 2,000 feet, giving way to dense undergrowth in a coastal forest of spruce and hemlock. This wilderness receives an average of 200 inches of precipitation per year with temperatures ranging from mid-20s to high 60s. The wildlife that inhabits this area includes brown bears, Sitka black-tail deer, mink, marten and river otters, trout and salmon (seasonally), as wells as eagles and shorebirds. Seals, sea lions, whales, and a large population of sea otters are often seen offshore, and crab, shrimp, herring, salmon and halibut are harvested from the sea. Within the Wilderness, three U.S. Forest Service cabins can be rented at Avoss Lake, Davidof Lake, and Plotnikof Lake. Chartered floatplanes are the only way to access these lake cabins. Each cabin has a 12' skiff with oars. Along the coast, boaters will find ample opportunities to anchor in relatively sheltered coves.