The next stop on our trip north through the Inside Passage was Wrangell. Unlike Ketchikan, which might have anywhere from two to five ships in port every day all summer long, Wrangell only gets a couple of ships each week, and never more than one at a time. The city is about a quarter the size of Ketchikan, and as such, does not rely quite as heavily on tourism. Fishing and logging are still mainstays of the local economy. We spotted a lone fishing boat returning to town the morning we arrived.
Though fewer tourists visit Wrangell, there are still some worthwhile sights. Barely a mile north of downtown is Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site. At the suggestion of the local guide at the bottom of the gangway, we headed here first so we could see the beach before high tide (only a few hours hence). Of the 40 or so petroglyphs, most are above the high tide line, but better to go when all are easily seen. Here are some of the more interesting ones, a fish, a spiral, and one unique to the Wrangell area—an orca.
On our walk back to town, a couple locals suggested we look for cover from the incoming weather, pointing at the low clouds hovering over the nearby hills. “That’ll be here in about 10 minutes,” one of them said. Sure enough, roughly 10 minutes later as we were peeking into a few of the shops on the main street in town, the rain began. Out came the raincoats and umbrellas. The slight drizzle continued on and off for the rest of the day, but didn’t prevent us from exploring. Near the middle of town, we came upon a small park with a few totem poles. In this part of Alaska, you’ll likely find totem parks in almost every town.
After lunch, we boarded a small boat for an excursion to do a bit of wildlife viewing. Our first stop was a place called White Rock where we saw a bunch of Steller’s sea lions. They seemed content to ignore us as they jostled for position on the rocks. Our boat continued on the Level Islands where we found a bunch of sea otters hanging out in the midst of a kelp forest. We did see a small group of males on one side of the island and a larger group of females, most with pups on the other side. Both groups opted to keep their distance from us. Our captain got as near as he could without harassing them, but unfortunately we were unable to get close enough to capture any decent photos. BTW, did you know that a group of sea otters is called a ‘raft’ and that they are the largest member of the weasel family? Well, now you do. Before heading back to town, we stopped by White Rock again for a few more pictures of the sea lions.
A little before 5:00 we were back in town giving us an opportunity to make one last look through the gift shops before our 6pm departure.
As far as cruise ship destinations, Wrangell is not one of the more frequented ports. It does, however, have some interesting sights making it worth visiting. For me, the more important reason is that it’s another borough (county) seat. The City and Borough of Wrangell (as is it properly called) is a consolidated city-borough, meaning the city and borough have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. I won’t bore you with the details here. If you are curious, check out Consolidated city-county for way more information than you ever wanted. In any case, this is one more county crossed off my list.
From Wrangell, we moved on to another consolidated city-borough, Sitka, the old Russian capital of Alaska. This is another city that is bypassed on many Alaska cruises. When considering such a cruise, it is wise to look at which ports you’ll visit before deciding which one is best for you. I'll share details on our visit to Sitka on the next post.