May 24, 2015

Wrangell - "The Friendliest Little Town in Southeast Alaska"

Tim and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Wrangell and would definitely recommend it as a worthwhile stop on the Inside Passage.  It’s a small town and is not widely known, and therefore feels more “authentic.”  Few cruise ships stop in Wrangell, and those that do are smaller in size.  Wrangell is a real working town, and it is not polished like some Alaska towns.  To me, it seems a bit earthy, or should I say, salty.  I like that.

Wrangell Harbor at Dusk

Wrangell certainly lived up to its reputation as “the friendliest little town in Southeast Alaska,” as Tim and I can attest.  It started with the manager at the ferry terminal and her staff, who went out of their way to help us find a place to get the RV repaired.  People on the street spoke to us, and a man sitting with his family at a restaurant started a conversation with us.

Even more remarkable, however, was the elderly couple that called out to us as we were walking back to the RV from downtown.  “Would you like a ride?” the woman asked us.  She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and we had the nicest chat on our way to the RV.  As we were getting out of the car, she gave us her telephone number and urged us to call if we needed anything at all.  That was a first for us, and it left us with such a nice feeling about the people of Wrangell.

In addition to our jet boat adventure, we found lots of things to keep us busy.  We seemed to find ourselves downtown for at least a little while every day and enjoyed walking by the boatyards.  We also visited the Wrangell Museum.  For such a small town, Wrangell has a very fine museum with an impressive collection that chronicles the history of the town and the Stikine River. 

Downtown Wrangell

Colorful Wrangell Harbor

Tlinget Basket Collection at Wrangell Museum

We also visited Shakes Island where the Chief Shakes Tribal House is located.  The Tribal House was recently restored and rededicated by local Native organizations.  Several totem poles once stood on the island but have recently been taken down.  We were still able to view the totems, which are now lying under the shelters while funding is sought for restoration or reproduction.

Chief Shakes Tribal House

On one morning we hiked to Rainbow Falls through the lush, old growth temperate rainforest.  The trail was less than a mile in length, one way, and mostly on a boardwalk surface.  The trail may have been short, but boy were there a lot of steps to climb.  The view of the falls and Shoemaker Bay was a nice reward.  

That's Just the Start of the Steps
Hemlock Forest

We then drove south on Wrangell Island to Nemo Point where we had lunch with a great view of the surrounding islands and Zimovia Strait.  There are several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds here, and many of the campsites share these views.

Nice Spot for a Picnic

Our favorite activity (excluding the jet boat ride!) was a visit to Petroglyph Beach.  This State Historic Site contains the largest concentration of rock art in Southeast Alaska.  There are more than 40 petroglyphs hidden among the rocks, and it is believed that at least some date back 8,000 years.  

Tim and I had a great time walking along the beach and searching for the carvings.  They were not so easy to find, even for an archeologist like Tim.  Once we found the first one, however, we seemed to more quickly spot others.  There were a few other searchers on the beach, and we enjoyed assisting each other.  Tim was especially helpful in pointing out the petroglyphs to the newcomers and offering insight into the stylistic differences.

Do You See This One?

Face Designs Like This Are Likely Older

Spirals Are Universal Designs

Other Finds at Petroglyph Beach

Look Closely Among the Rocks Here to Find Petroglyphs

On our last day, a cruise ship docked in Wrangell, and almost 500 passengers set out to explore the town.  We somehow managed to avoid the bus tours, even though we at times visited the same sites.  As we were leaving Petroglyph Beach, for example, two busloads pulled in.  Gee, that was close.  As it turned out, the ship was the Seven Seas Navigator, the same one Tim and I sailed on for our honeymoon.  It was actually sort of fun to see her again.  We certainly loved our Mediterranean cruise, and I’m sure that this Alaska cruise is one of the better ones offered.

Seven Seas Navigator Docked in Wrangell


  1. Nice friendly encounter with the locals ... we find that to be more likely when we're visiting places during the off-season, but a little kindness and respect oftentimes reward us anytime during our travels.

    1. I agree that it's much easier to connect with local residents during the off-season. And, you are absolutely right about respect. I've witnessed tourists acting just the opposite way both at home and abroad, and it's embarrassing to see.

  2. How neat to find a pertoglyph beach! Never heard of such a thing. I sure hope the rock pieces don't wash away. Getting your touring in without the cruise group can be tricky. Glad you had the beach without the mob! Sure sounds like a great little town. You don't find that kind of hospitality much any more.

    1. I had never heard of a petroglyph beach before either. I'm sure some of the rocks have washed away over the years, and many of the carvings have weathered because of the constant tidal action. We loved Wrangell. I can only remember finding that kind of hospitality in a few small towns in the South.

  3. Wrangell sounds exactly like Haines and nothing like Haines. I'm glad the townspeople are so great.

    1. I'm looking forward to spending time in Haines. I was there many years ago and loved the low-key vibe.


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