Tongass National Forest & Admiralty Island
The Tongass National Forest is named for the Tongass group of the Tlingit people, who inhabited the southernmost areas of the Alaska panhandle near what is now Ketchikan.
At 17mm acres, the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska is the largest national forest in the United States and the Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. The Forest supports the habitat of many species of endangered and rare flora and fauna. Five species of salmon, brown and black bear, and Bald eagles abound throughout the Tongass.
Tongass National Forest encompasses the Inside Passage’s islands of the Alexander Archipelago and includes fjords, glaciers, and the Coastal Range mountains. A number of Alaska Native tribes live throughout Southeast Alaska including the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. Thirty-one different communities are located within the Forest; the largest is Juneau, the state capital, with a population of 31,000.
About forty percent of Tongass National Forest is composed of wetlands, snow, ice, rock, and non-forest vegetation, while the remaining ten million are forested. 4.5 million acres of the Tongass are preserved as wilderness areas including Misty Fjords and Admiralty Island which are national monuments.
Declared a national monument in 1978, Admiralty Island National Monument covers 955,747 acres of the Tongass National Forest with all but 18,351 acres of the monument part of the protected areas comprising the Kootznoowoo Wilderness. Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce and Western Redcedar are the core of the monument’s rainforest vegetation with abundant wildlife including Grizzly and Black Bears, varieties of salmon, whales, mountain goats, and deer.
The Tongass also has several designated wilderness areas within it including Fords Terror Wilderness (with Tracy Arm, Endicott Arm and Dawes and Sawyer Glaciers) and the South Baranof Wilderness.
Fords Terror Wilderness was designated by the United States Congress in 1980 and is located 45 miles south of Juneau and extending over 653,179 acres and consists of two deep and narrow fjords: Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. Both fjords are over 30 miles long and one-fifth of their area is covered in ice. Sawyer Glacier lies at the end of Tracy Arm and Dawes Glacier lies in Endicott Arm.
The wilderness is named for a U.S. Navy crewman named Ford who in 1899 paddled into a narrow waterway connected to Endicott Arm. For six hours he was caught in surging tidal currents, surrounded by massive, crashing icebergs. He survived the ordeal and ever since then, this finger-shaped waterway has been known as Ford's Terror.
Wildlife in the area includes black and brown bears, deer, wolves, harbor seals, and a variety of birds, such as arctic terns and pigeon guillemots with the occasional lucky sighting of mountain goats.
Designated as a protected area in 1980 and bordered to the west by the Gulf of Alaska and to the east by Chatham Strait, the South Baranof (Island) Wilderness hosts stunning scenery with granite glacier-scored mountains and beautiful saltwater fjords and valleys stretching over an expanse of 319,568 acres. Named for Alexander Baranof, the first governor of Russian America, the wilderness includes Mount Ada (4,528 feet high) and active glaciers blanket the hills above 2,000 feet, with lower elevations containing a coastal forest of spruce and hemlock.
The wildlife living in South Baranof includes brown bears, Sitka black-tail deer, mink, marten and river otters, trout and salmon (seasonally), as wells as eagles and shorebirds. Seals, sea lions, whales, and a large population of sea otters are often seen offshore, and crab, shrimp, herring, salmon and halibut support a diverse array of marine life.
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