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Exploring Petersburg Alaska

Alaskas Little Norway

   A Quaint Little Fishing Village

The Little Norway of Petersburg Alaska

Petersburg may be a small, quaint, fishing village, but in this small village settled by Norwegians, is a bundle of big adventure. Here in this isolated village, you will see the built-in work ethic of the Scandinavian people.  Norwegians built it to resemble Norway, to bring a piece of home to their new Alaskan life. It is a thriving fishing village that is still successful. Not much has changed over the years. In Petersburg, we see what was, what is, and what will be.

Fishing is the main economic resource of the area, but it did not begin with the immigrants from Norway. but rather the Tlingit have been living in the region of Mitkof Island for hundreds of years. Most likely the first experience of the European immigrants when they arrived, in the latter 1800’s, were dealing with the Tlingit Indians. For hundreds of years it was thought that they only had summer fishing camps in the area, but recent archaeological evidence would suggest otherwise. Over the years, the Tlingit haven’t lived much in Petersburg due to an early hostility to all things native. But now, if you walk the streets of Petersburg, you will see a blended culture, but by far the leading culture is Norwegian.

Petersburg received it’s name from Peter Buschmann, one of the Norwegian immigrants. He built the first sawmill, which turned out to be a very successful endeavor and the first cannery. These endeavors grew mightily over the years and finally grew into a small fishing community located at the Northern most end of Mitkof Island, latter known as Petersburg.

Petersburg is located quite close to the LeConte Glacier. Over the years, this has brought a double blessing on this small fishing community.  The location of easy ice, the year around, has helped the community grow into the fishing port that it is today. With the ice, came the ability to ship fish south to the mainland, making the community quite prosperous. Even today, this community continues to make it’s living from the sea for the most part. In addition to it’s fishing economy, Petersburg, Leconte Glacier, and the art of the Tlingit natives, has been discovered by the tourists who come on the cruise ships each summer.


                                                 Petersburg Fishing Port

This port is the home to the many fishing boats that go out daily. The Bushmann’s Cannery became quite successful and was latter bought by Pacific American Fisheries, a larger company. They owned and ran the cannery until in the 1960s when fishing began to slow down. Then they closed the cannery for the first time since it was built. The community pooled their monies and bought the Petersburg Cannery, which is successful to this day. In the late 70’s the name was changed to Icicle Seafoods. Icicle Seafoods is quite a large company in Alaska, and very successful. The cannery changed hands yet again in 2017, but still thrives in the community. This community revolves around the fishing industry.


                                              Seals Playing On The Buoy

As you leave the Continental United States and then continue through Canadian waters, you are in the open waters of the Inside Passage of Alaska. Sometimes you will see the wilderness of the United States and other times it will be Canada you are looking at. You will even see small hints of yesterday, when Russia was in control. The wilderness is pristine and amazing. You might see bears fishing, moose grazing, or seals at play. When you dock at small seaside villages, you can elect to pan for gold, watch for whales in season,  seek out the elders for amazing stories, or immerse yourself in the culture and stories of the Tlingit Indians. The Tlingit have spent generations in this amazing land. They are masters at fishing and hunting, and make their lives connected to the very land and sea that also feeds them. You will see fiords that are barely visible through the morning midst, forests and wilderness so lush and green, and the ice from the glaciers gleaming in the sun. This strange land of the Midnight Sun reaches out and embraces you, calling you by name. And this is just the beginning as you travel the Inside Passage through the wilderness to the last frontier.


                                          The Beautiful Wrangell Narrows

The Wrangell Narrows, in times past, were one of the most dangerous 22 miles on the whole trip up the inside passage. There are miles where the air does not move and often as not, the fog lingers deep and wicked over the area. Now a days there are instruments that take over in time of need, but that was not always the case. This is an area that has made many captains have grey hair before their time. Now, with the help of modern navigation equipment, the trip from the Island of Mitkof and the Island of Kupreanof to Petersburg can be made safely. It is with a spirit of awe, that this spectacular winding and scenic waterway is crossed.

Petersburg 2

                                     Coming Into The Port Of Petersburg

Petersburg, Alaska is a beautiful port that is sheltered from the extreme storms out on the Narrows by it’s natural geography. It is home to one of the best fishing fleets, the world has to offer. This is a fishing community that makes it’s living from the sea. They recognize the sea in all they do, as the sea is the heartbeat of the community. If you come on the cruise ships or sail your own, everything you need is at the port. Petersburg actually has three modern harbors that are a short walk from downtown. This is perhaps the nicest port in all of Southeast Alaska, and for sure it is the friendliest port of call in Alaska.

Preparing to dock

                   Preparing To Dock In The Petersburg, Alaska Harbor

Petersburg, being a shallow port, is not used by the mega cruise ships. The smaller boats, however, call this port home. Cruise ships with less than 250 passengers are regular customers of the port. This actually works out for the best, as it allows the smaller groups of tourists that come, to enjoy a quiet and special one on  one type of experience. There is no large invasion of tourists, but only those who come to enjoy this friendly community that sits in the shadow of the Patterson Mountain Peaks.

Some from the larger cruise ships elect to take the ferry across the Narrows to visit this pleasant fishing community. If you enjoy nature, hiking, walking, and biking, there is plenty of opportunity for these experiences. Their are Tlingit craftsman and storytellers wanting to share the stories of this Norwegian fishing village with those who desire to listen.  If you are adventurous, and comfortable without being entertained, you will enjoy the freedom of exploring this tiny island.


                                     Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

The 3 hour trip on the ferry one of the adventure of alaska marine highway ferry from Wrangell to Petersburg is breathtaking. You will spend three hours crossing this spectacular Wrangell Narrows with it’s many unique markers for navigation. Arriving at Petersburg, you will find a small fishing village that lives to the beat of the sea. Surrounded by a pristine wilderness, this is the perfect adventure for those who desire a more natural approach to exploration. Here on this remote island, you will find a  hidden beauty that is sought out only by a few. Welcome to the shallow Port of Petersburg!

An exciting adventure near Petersburg is a visit to LeConte Bay and the near by ice fields from LeConte Glacier. There are many tours, some by air and others by boat. Both are exciting and have their own advantages. If you have time to do both, they are completely different. What a beautiful view you will have of Devil’s Thumb, LeConte Bay and the immense ice fields from the air. If you elect to view the grandeur of the bay and the icebergs by boat, you will get a whole different view of the Coast Mountain Range the surrounds the LeConte Glacier. As you will be closer at times to the shore, you will see the wildlife and this extremely large glacier up close. As you cross the narrow fjord, you will get an amazing view of the glacier that you will never forget. If time and money allow, it is well worth doing both a tour by air and one by boat. They are two totally different worlds of adventure.


                  Getting Crab Pots ready for Dungeness Crab Season

It is always a fun experience watching as the fisherman get their crab pots ready during crab season. There is also a fish processing plant in the center of town called Coastal Cold Storage that has a small seafood-restaurant. Hear you will find some of the best and freshest seafood in town.They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their Dungeness Crab is some of the best in the world. They will also mail any of their fresh fish home for you. There is nothing fancy about this restaurant, just some of the best seafood that Alaska has to offer.

King Crab

                            Fresh Alaskan King Crab And Salmon Feast

While traveling the Inside Passage, or enjoying dinner in port, you will want to try the suburb Alaskan King Crab and Salmon with a Seafood Feast. Every restaurant in the town serves some form of a Seafood Feast. If you have never had fresh Alaskan king Crab, you will be in for a surprise. Even the Salmon is amazing when it comes fresh from the sea. You will find simple places like the Coastal Cold Storage that serve excellent food in a very relaxed atmosphere to Inga’s Gallery that is a roadside cafe with many seafood specialties. There are also two vegetarian friendly restaurants.

Wrangle Narrors

                  Snow-capped Patterson Peaks And Mountain Glaciers

As you look across the Wrangle Narrows you will encounter spectacular snow-capped Patterson Peaks. Surrounding the peaks are some of the beautiful glaciers of Alaska. Here you will discover that Patterson Glacier changes almost daily, so one day you will see more of the peaks and then they will be hidden the next time. This is a breathtaking area that has many climbing opportunities, hiking trails with camping facilities, and up close view of Patterson Glacier. During summer, you can enjoy the beautiful Patterson river. No matter where you decide to explore, there is plenty of adventure in the Tongass National Forest.

Narrows 3

         Leaving Petersburg For The Return Trip Across The Narrows

Awe, those beautiful and unpredictable Wrangle Narrows. When living on land , when the days are gray and rainy, it gets old fast. A deep sorrow can come over you. With no place to go, you soon become fore-long and despondent. But the constant rainy days of the Wrangle Narrows matters not when on a ship. You are always moving, and changing your location. The mountain is ever changing and the sky is in a constantly in transition. Explosive weather and amazing and changeable skies make any day worth living. This can soon become a sailors paradise. There is nothing you can not do with a good wind, especially a good tail wind.

Then there are places where there is no air moving and soon a deep marine fog sets in. Here the air is heavy and thick, and you can see nothing but the white fog. In years past, these waters became difficult and treacherous quickly. In today’s world, there are instruments that can carry on, no matter how thick the fog. Now, two ships pass, where minutes ago they were on a collusion course. These instruments have opened up the Wrangle Narrows to people who would not travel them before. In this short three hour trip, you will see some of the most beautiful water on earth, with a touch of adventure that will raise your adrenaline to a whole new level.

Narrows 2

                     A Brisk Evening On The Scenic Wrangell Narrows

As you continue across the Wrangle Narrows, look up! The Patterson Peaks are tall and stately with their tips always covered in snow and ice. See the glaciers, as they sparkle on a clear night. Another adventure, a day of exploration comes to a close.

If you are ready for an adventure, then Petersburg is the place to spend some time. Back a bag, and grab your passport, just in case, and take a cruise up the Inside Passage, but don’t forget, to plan a side trip to Petersburg, Alaska’s Little Norway.

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Petersburg Alaska

The Little Norway of Petersburg Alaska

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