2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 6, Day 6 & 7 Thomas Bay to Wrangell - NW Explorations
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2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 6, Day 6 & 7 Thomas Bay to Wrangell

Thomas Bay was quiet and calm as we departed on our way to Wrangell Narrows, a 21-mile-long passage, with over 60 numbered navigational aids and 5 sets of range markers. Strong currents generally meet in the middle at Midway Rock but by the time we arrived, Chris had timed our arrival so well that the currents were barely noticeable, and we traveled through smoothly.

In Wrangell, the harbor master assigned us slips all together which would make for a convenient dock party tomorrow afternoon. Once tied up and settled, Kit and Pam from Pamelican joined Jane, Nate and Oliver for a low tide walk to Petroglyph Beach which has more than 40 petroglyphs, the highest concentration of petroglyphs in SE Alaska. It is impossible to date the work because there are no pigments, and the rocks are exposed to the tides and cannot be dated based on surrounding rock layers, but it is estimated that they span a time period from 1,000 to as old as 8,000 years old! The designs range from simple spirals and circles to work more reminiscent of Tlingit art seen on many local totems.

Wrangell is situated near the Stikine River, one of the fastest flowing navigable rivers in North America running 330 miles through British Columbia, the Coast Mountains and Alaska to its delta, just a few miles north of Wrangell. The economy is based largely on commercial fishing and processing as well as eco-tourism with opportunities to observe wildlife, hunt, fish, visit a bear reserve, glaciers and ice fields.

Wrangell’s rich history begins with the Tlingit since time immemorial through the Russians, British and US, making Wrangell the only city in Alaska to have been ruled under 3 flags and 4 separate cultures. The tribal house on Chief Shakes Island in the middle of Wrangell harbor has a spectacular example of a large cedar planked house carved by hand with adze marks resulting smooth textured patterns inside and outside the massive durable planks. The entry, the only opening in the building, is marked with carved vertical planks painted red and black from the ground to the roof. Some of the poles that originally stood on the island are in need of repair and stored in open sheds allowing the viewer to see authentic carvings including orcas, bears, eagles, thunderbirds, frogs, humans and others. Truly spectacular.

Clint and James hired a fishing guide for the day and returned with six bright silver Coho salmon and a decent sized halibut. They won’t be taking it back to Tasmania and gave every boat zip-lock bags of beautiful red Coho salmon fillets. The crew on Deception grilled ours and had an exceptionally excellent dinner.

An elegant heron stood atop the breakwater backlighted by a brilliant red-orange sunset, providing a picturesque ending for our visit to Wrangell. Tomorrow, we travel Vixen Inlet located on Cleveland Peninsula on the mainland.

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