Admiralty Island Province
Admiralty, second largest island in the massive Alexander Archipelago, dominates the northern half of the Panhandle. The island is more or less half way between Juneau and Sitka. It is 96 miles long, northeast to south, and about 30 miles in width at its widest. It embraces 678 miles of coastline, highly irregular with many bays and estuaries, and a total area of over a million acres or 1,664 square miles.
Dense green spruce and hemlock forests cover much of the island although only about 20 percent of the area is attractive to timber harvesting. Only a few logging scars show, and many old harvest areas are heavily overgrown with second growth. There are broad valley systems that have never been harvested and are, except for occasional windthrows, literally unbroken carpets of green, pristine wilderness. The area is wet (100-inches-plus annually except for "dry" spots like Angoon, in the rain-shadowed lee of snowcapped Baranof Island to the southwest) climax forest in which underbrush and down trees frequently make foot travel difficult.
A spine of mountains runs up the northern portion of the island, where the treeline ends at around 2,000 to 2,500 feet, with dark forests giving way to alpine meadows and twisted little pines and dwarf spruces in a parkland of flowers, lush grasses, ground plants like the dwarf dogwood or bunchberry, heart leaves and other growth on which Sitka blacktail deer grow fat throughout the summer. To the north, this spine tapers needle-like to Point Retreat, a favorite fishing spot.
South of the spine, in the center of Admiralty, a strong geologic contract breaks the continuity of the mountain complex and a vast mid-island lowlands area embraces a myriad of lakes and streams across the island from west to east. the island reaches its greatest width. To the south of the lowlands, mountainous country slopes to bays on both east and west coasts.
The first of June still finds bears coming out of hibernation on the high slopes. The brown bear is prolific on the island. Population estimates are over 1,000 bears or about one bear per square mile--exceeding the number of people living on the island. Admiralty Island accounts for approximately 10 percent of Alaska's population of brown bears.
While bears outnumber people, bald eagles outnumber bears and provide one of the more outstanding features of Admiralty Island--an estimated 2,500 reside on Admiralty Island--more than all bald eagles known to exist in the remainder of the United States. A graphic plotting of nests in the area identified by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists results in the intricate outlining of the entire island's coastline.
Angoon, Admiralty Island's only permanent community, lies at the entrance to Mitchell Bay on Chatham Strait. Its people are mostly Tlingit Indians, descendants of the tribes that have controlled the Straits for centuries. Access to Angoon is limited to float planes and the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. This physical isolation from other population centers, coupled with the land in which they live, has served to set Angoon apart from other towns in southeast Alaska in terms of culture and lifestyle. Angoon has been called the stronghold of Tlingit culture.