Wrangell is base camp for some of the best bear-viewing in the state and – by definition – the US. Thirty miles southeast of town on the mainland, Anan Creek is the site of one of the largest pink-salmon runs in Southeast Alaska. From the platforms at Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory, you can watch eagles, harbor seals, black bears and a few brown bears chowing down gluttonously on the spawning humpies. This is one of the few places in Alaska where black and brown bears coexist – or at least put up with each other – at the same run. Permits are required from early July through August, or basically when the bears are there, and are reserved online or by calling the USFS Office in Wrangell. Almost half of the daily permits go to local tour operators. The rest are available from February 1 for that particular year. Four permits a day are issued through a weekly lottery.
Anan Creek is a 20-minute floatplane flight or an hour boat ride from Wrangell, and almost every tour operator in town offers a trip there.
Tours aside, the best way to see the bears, if you can plan ahead, is to reserve the USFS Anan Bay Cabin, which comes with four permits and is a 1-mile hike from the observation area. This cabin can be reserved six months in advance, and during the bear-watching season it pretty much has to be.
One look at a nautical chart of Wrangell will have kayakers drooling and dreaming. Islands and protected waterways abound, though many are across the vast Stikine River flats, where experience is a prerequisite due to strong tides and currents. Novices can enjoy paddling around the harbor, over to Petroglyph Beach or to Dead Man’s Island.