Prince of Wales Island Wildlife and Cultural Tour
About the tour
Prince of Wales Island is the Real Alaska: with its temperate rainforest climate, hundreds of miles of protected coastlines and emerald islands, Prince of Wales Island is a paradise for exploration via small boats and kayaks. Its extensive road system also provides easy access to amazing locations.
Whales, Sea Lions, and Birds—marine wildlife surrounds you here, with opportunities for photography and behavioral observation not available in larger-group settings or more urban areas. You will not be surrounded by other tourists; you will likely be in places where only a few far-off boats can be seen, or completely alone with your small group and guide.
Salmon and Bears—learn how integral salmon are for the entire ecosystem and economy in Southeast Alaska, and what current scientific knowledge is teaching us about how to help them flourish.
Native Alaskan Art, Culture and History—a special tour allows you an insider’s glimpse into a very rural Native Alaskan village. Learn how “subsistence” living helps indigenous people stay connected to the past, and watch a genuine artist at work.
Caves, karst, and old growth—Learn how these landscapes influence eachother and the humans that live near them.
Is This Trip Right for Me?
We will be exploring marine wildlife and the environment using small boats for approximately half the tour. The itinerary and exact locations will remain flexible due to weather influences and group dynamics and interests.
We will be hiking some structured boardwalk trails, with a potential cave tour including a steep staircase and a cave environment which does not include squeezes or crawls, but does require a degree of fitness and comfort with dark and close environments.
If you are not comfortable going to the bathroom in outhouses, the woods, or, in the case of our boats, in a 5 gallon bucket in the privacy of the cabin, this trip may not be for you. If you are not comfortable getting rained on all day, this trip might not be for you. This is a rugged, completely un-scripted environment; plans may have to be altered quickly due to safety/weather concerns, especially during days we plan to be on the ocean. If you are not comfortable deviating from the trip itinerary if necessary, this trip may not be for you.
We do not provide a “luxury” experience; we provide a very authentic rural Alaskan experience, far away from the comforts of cruise ships and expensive lodges. However, we are extremely attentive to your safety and providing the best experience possible. The lodging operators we work with specifically are friendly and welcome ecotourists.
Activity Level—this trip requires a moderate to active fitness level. Hiking trails are generally easy, but can be slippery. Kayaking 4-5 mi per day can include shore stops where lifting kayaks and carrying them short distances is required. Extensions may require more extensive portaging.
OUR ECO TOUR IS JUST COOL
Plenty of things to enjoy on your trip
Wildlife You May See
Marine: Humpback whales, Orca (Killer whales), Dall porpoise, sea otters, Stellar’s Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Salmon (4 species)
Other: Sitka Blacktail Deer, Black Bear, River Otter, Beaver, Mink, Marten, Gray Wolf
Birds: Marbled Murrelet, pigeon guillemot, rhinoceros auklet, scoters, oystercatchers, black turnstone, pacific wren, mergansers, Audubon’s warbler, bald eagle, Pacific loon, Common loon, Sandhill crane, great blue heron, Northern Pygmy Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, more.
Flora: Devil’s Club (Native medicinal plant), Blueberry, Huckleberry, Salmonberry, Morel mushrooms, lichens, bull kelp, bladderwrack, Sitka Spruce, Alaska Yellow Cedar, Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Lodgepole pine, more.
ECO TOUR ITINERARY & Pricing
Day 1: Old Growth, Caves, and Karst
After breakfast, we’ll depart for El Capitan Cave and the North End of the Island, learning about old-growth forest ecology, caves and karst on the way. A stop at Beaver Falls Karst Trail on the way will show you more about karst ecology and how it intertwines with old-growth forests.
We’ll stop at one or two other locations, time allowing, and see salmon runs in action (seasonally dependent). We will arrive back in Craig in time for dinner at one of the local restaurants, or cook your own feast at your lodging facility.
Day 2: Marine Wildlife
After breakfast, we’ll travel via boat from the Craig harbor to surrounding islands and coves west of Craig, with opportunities for whale watching, bird watching, photography, and optionally, kayaking along some kelp beds. Shore lunch at Canoe Point or on the boat.
We’ll return in time for dinner in town.
Day 3: Alaskan Wolf Day
After breakfast, we’ll depart in our van, using the road system to access several wolf cameras. We will be providing that data to The Nature Conservancy and Alaska Department of Fish and Game; this is Citizen Science at work and the data we capture is vital for an on-going population study of Gray Wolves on the Island. We will be hiking through undeveloped, “muskeg” areas, which are bird and wildlife-rich.
Sack lunch included.
Return to Craig/Klawock area by dinner.
Day 4: Marine Wildlife and Birds
Today after breakfast, we’ll travel via small boat to various marine locations with the main goal of seeing birds, identifying numerous plants and trees and possibly gathering some berries and other local edible plants.
Return to Craig by 4-5pm.
Day 5: Cultural Day in Kasaan with Stormy Hamar
Travel via van and road system to Kasaan. Spend the day with Stormy, learning about the cultural heritage, traditions and history of Native Alaskans, as well as a walking tour of Kasaan, including the Totem Trail and Whale House historic areas. Visit historic Salt Chuck Mine area on the way back. Most visitors describe this tour as a pinnacle experience on their POW trip.
Return to Craig by 4-5 pm.
Day 6: Options
Alpine Mountain Hike or Kayak Day—this day remains flexible and the group can choose another day on the water or an additional day on land. Options here include a major hike into undeveloped, mountain alpine areas or kayaking on freshwater lakes/coastal inlets.
Charter fishing—Katie is licensed to provide charter fishing for a group up to 4; we fish for salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. If 6 people want a fishing experience, we can either do half-day fishing or arrange for another charter operator (this entails an additional cost of up to $1200).
Day 7: FREE DAY
Un-guided, to do anything, including sleeping in late, packing, hiking the Sunnahe Mountain Trail in Craig, kayaking the ocean area around Craig, etc.
Transport to the ferry terminal or the Klawock Airport provided.
2 Day Optional Wolf Extension
During this extension of the Citizen Science wolf study program, we’ll travel to one of two Forest Service cabins; one, on a freshwater canoe route; the other, on a saltwater inlet perfect for kayaking. We’ll set up camp and spend 1-2 nights exploring the lake, the canoe/kayak route, and the old growth forest around it.
From the saltwater cabin, we’ll travel via the road system to check several more wolf cameras by day, and return to the cabin for the evening, where there is a better-than-average chance of hearing wolves howl.
Structure depends on group desire to travel the entire 15-mile canoe route, availability of watercraft, availability of rental cabins, etc.
Pricing & Details
7 days/6 nights Excursion
What is Included:
All transportation, Lodging costs, including cabin rental costs. Costs for gear, including kayaks and camping gear (if applicable), breakfast items stocked in your lodging, and quality sack lunches with vegetarian options.
What is Excluded:
Dinners, Airfare, Travel insurance, pre and post trip expenses, personal side trips, personal comfort items.
(based on double occupancy)
add 2-day extension - $5200/person.
Single Supplement - $1500.00
June - most dates are currently open. Salmon runs may not be in full swing during June; however, marine mammals are active during this time. So are wolves, bears, and birds.
August 1-8 - August is the most prolific month for salmon runs, bear viewing, and marine life.
How your trip makes a difference
On Prince of Wales Island, timber has been the leading industry for many years, with commercial fishing playing a major role. Recently, that has been changing, with a transition to young-growth timber extraction, away from cutting old-growth forests so vital for our ecology and watershed health. Local people have been transitioning to tourism as an economic replacement, but large cruise-ship industry isn’t what the Island wants to attract. Island people want to retain the rural, wild character of their Island. By coming as low-impact eco-tourists, you’ll be helping local tourism and hospitality operators succeed in ways so much better for the Island’s wildlife and people.
Local guides, like the ones you’ll be traveling with, care deeply about conserving and caring for the Island’s natural resources. They want to help prove that ecotourism can work here; and, in fact, can supplant some of the extractive industries common in the area.
As you learn about Native Alaskan culture, you’ll see why Native Alaskan history, subsistence lifestyle, and culture are such a vital part of this amazing area. You will have an opportunity to donate to tribal organizations and purchase authentic Native art.
See our Travel Responsibility document for further information about how your trip to POW is environmentally responsible.
Wildlife and the Environment
The Nature Conservancy has been the most influential and helpful entity regarding support of ecotourism on POW. A donation to this group helps small tourism operators.
During our Wolf Study day, we’ll be providing real data for an on-going wolf population study that is meant to help determine the status of this majestic predator. You’ll learn more about how and why these studies are being conducted and what they’re telling us about predator management. During our Marine tour days, if we see whales, we’ll be recording numbers and locations. This data helps biologists understand movement of known pods of whales in the area and adds to their knowledge of population numbers.
Local culture & community
On POW, every dollar you spend will benefit the local community; in part, because there are no chain stores on POW. Every restaurant, tourism operator or guide is part of the community. Your dollars are vital for the survival and increase of tourism, which can help supplant extractive industries on the Island.