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Karta River Wilderness

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Two women standing on a cabin porch, the dense forest rising from the shore of the lake in the background.
Library image #2891: Karta Lake Cabin, on Karta Lake, in the Karta River Wilderness Area on Prince of Wales Island.


The United States Congress designated the Karta River Wilderness (map) in 1990 and it now has a total of 39,917 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Forest Service.


Karta Bay, one of the western extensions off the head of Kasaan Bay, forms the eastern border of the Karta River Wilderness on east-central Prince of Wales Island. The area includes the drainage of the Karta River system (which empties into the southwest corner of Karta Bay) and two major lakes, Salmon and Karta. Fire burned the area around the turn of the century, but second-growth spruce, cedar, and hemlock stand an average of 60 feet tall. One of Alaska's more recent additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System, Karta River Wilderness is best known for large salmon runs and the scenic quality of the large river drainage system. Wildlife fills the area, including wolves, black bears, black-tailed deer, beavers, otters, minks, martens, and weasels. Trumpeter swans and various other waterfowl are commonly seen on the river. Native Alaskans, particularly the Haida, historically lived around the bay and utilized the rich food sources of this area. The 5-mile Karta River Trail follows the Karta River up from Karta Bay to Salmon Lake, allowing excellent access to the river for steelhead, sockeye and coho salmon runs. Three Forest Service rental cabins are located in the Karta Wilderness: Karta River, Karta Lake, and Salmon Lake, and all are accessible via floatplane. Boat access is available for the Karta River cabin. The Karta River Wilderness is one of Prince of Wales Island's easier Wildernesses to access.

Planning to Visit the Karta River 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 Karta River 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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