Spotlight: Alaska’s Kootznoowoo Wilderness

Supporting one of the largest concentrations of coastal brown bear in the world

By Kristi Bray

What You’ll Find

Coastal forests and brown bears dominate the 100-mile long Admiralty Island in southeastern Alaska. Initially protected in 1978 as Admiralty Island National Monument, Kootznoowoo Wilderness was established in 1980. Known to the indigenous Tlingit people of southeast Alaska as Kootznoowoo or “Fortress of the Bears,” this wilderness spans most of Admiralty Island except for portions in the north and the village of Angoon on the western side at the mouth of Mitchell Bay.

Within Kootznoowoo Wilderness is Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area. Home to the Alaskan brown bear, this beach viewing site is approximately 60 yards from the creek where the bears can be observed in their natural setting fishing for salmon, playing with siblings, sleeping and roaming. A permit is required to visit Pack Creek between June 1 and September 10.

Getting There

From Juneau, board a ferry servicing the coastal village of Angoon. To reach a specific destination on Admiralty Island, such as Pack Creek Wildlife View Area, access is by floatplane, motorboat, sailboat, kayak, or canoe. Most visitors arrive by floatplane from Juneau; the trip usually takes about 30 minutes each way.

Stay Here

Several cabins are available for advanced reservation on Admiralty Island, including: Admiralty Cove Cabin, Young Lake (North) Cabin, Young Lake (South) Cabin, Kathleen Lake Cabin, Florence Lake (East) Cabin, Big Shaheen Cabin, Little Shaheen Cabin, Hasselborg Creek Cabin, Lake Alexander Cabin, Sportsmen Cabin, Jims Lake Cabin, Church Bight Cabin and Pybus Bay Cabin.

Make Sure You

Reserve a permit for Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area. Bring your camera and be ready for a day-trip of a lifetime. Pack Creek is located within the wilderness which means there are no facilities on site – no bathrooms, no shelter from the elements and no cell phone service. Due to its unique location and wildlife, visitors to Pack Creek are greeted by Rangers and provided an orientation including rules and important information to be followed when visiting the area.

Try This

For those paddlers seeking an adventure bisecting Admiralty Island, try the 26-mile Admiralty Island Canoe Route. A series of lakes and saltwater channels allow paddlers an opportunity to traverse the island and discover the rugged inland beauty.

Don’t Forget

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. In September of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed into law the Wilderness Act. Immediately, 34 areas, covering 9.1 million acres were designated as wilderness. The Act provided for future designation by Congress and during the next 50 years, a total of 757 Wilderness areas in 44 states across the U.S., including Puerto Rico were included in this preservation system. These areas cover nearly 110 million acres, which is about five percent of the land in the U.S.—half of these acres are located in Alaska.

Learn more about the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and join events across the country in honor of the world’s most special places and landscapes. Take a moment to enjoy this short video from the National Park Service capturing the importance of wilderness.

Get Started!

Plan ahead and be prepared! Traveling and camping in wilderness requires advance planning, appropriate supplies and good maps. Here are some helpful tips by the Klamath National Forest.

Tread Lightly ethics can be practiced during your Wilderness experience. The more you understand about your impact on the land, the more likely you are to Leave No Trace of your visit.

Did You Know?

The Pack Creek ecosystem within Kootznoowoo Wilderness is home to more than just brown bears; Admiralty Island contains the highest concentration of bald eagles in the world, and Sitka black-tailed deer thrive in the rich sedge meadows and in the old-growth forest. Mink, marten and otter are common along the island’s shores, as are nearly countless varieties of birds.

Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area in Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Alaska (USFS)