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Alaska’s Tongass and Chugach National Forests


Caribou in Alaska
Caribou in Alaska

Alaska’s Tongass and Chugach National Forests are America’s first and second largest national forests, respectively. While both parks share public services such as easy access, camping, trails, interpretive centers, and hunting and fishing, each has a unique flavor determined by its landscape and wildlife.

The Tongass National Forest, covering Alaska’s Panhandle region, has nearly quadrupled in size since it was established in 1902. Because of its size, the Tongass is divided into three areas: the Ketchikan area, from Prince of Wales and the outer islands to Misty Fjord and north to the Cleveland Peninsula; the Stikine area, from the islands north of Prince of Wales and south of Admiralty Island and the mainland north to Cape Fanshaw; and the Chatham area, which covers the northern portion of the panhandle.

Designated wilderness areas are scattered throughout the Tongass National Forest. These undeveloped lands have been set aside to protect their ecological diversity. The Kootznoowoo Wilderness area, or “fortress of the bears” as it is called by local Tlingit, covers nearly all of Admiralty Island National Monument. Misty Fjords National Monument, in the southern part of southeast Alaska, is known for its narrow, steep-walled canyons.

Prince of Wales Island, part of the Alexander Archipelago in the southernmost portion of the Alaska Panhandle, is the third largest island in the United States. The island is dominated by steep, forested mountains and deep U-shaped valleys, streams, lakes, saltwater straits, and bays that were carved by glacial ice.

On the eastern boundary of the Chugach National Forest is Kayak Island where more than 250 years ago George Wilhelm Steller, a naturalist traveling with Danish navigator Vitus Bering, became the first European to set foot in what is now Alaska.

One-third of the Chugach National Forest is rock and moving ice. The rest is a diverse tapestry of land, water, plants, and animals. This national forest boasts numerous trails to the wooded mountains and crystal waters of the Kenai Peninsula, the islands and glaciers of Prince William Sound, and the wetlands and birds of the Copper River Delta. The delta is a unique wetlands ecosystem where tens of millions of birds spend all or part of their lives. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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