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    Kodiak: discovering the island of the famous bear

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    Martí Micolau

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    It is the most accessible and developed area in southwestern Alaska, but at the same time it is the undisputed kingdom of bears. The Kodiak Archipelago, of which the homonymous island constitutes three quarters of the total, surrounded by other 16 islands and several smaller islets, extends for an arc of almost 300km in the Gulf of Alaska.

    To make this place known are the Kodiak Orsi, the largest brown bear subspecies in the world, and fishing. If there is no shortage of salmon throughout Alaska, the coasts of the archipelago are among the richest in the state from this point of view and the port of Kodiak is for this reason one of the most equipped with fishing boats in the whole state.

    The terrestrial and marine fauna, which in itself offers excellent reasons to visit, are joined by cultural aspects. Here are preserved some of the main Russian heritage of Alaska, as well as the traditions of the native Alutiiq people, originally from the archipelago.

    A curiosity is that since 2014 the island's energy needs have been met at 99,7% from renewable sources (wind and hydroelectric). A record arrived after years in which the island was a real laboratory for renewable energy.


    • How to reach us
    • Climate and temperatures
    • Kodiak Island
      • Russian museums and churches
      • Bear watching al Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
      • Tours, fishing and island events 
    • smaller islands
      • Shuyak Island State Park
      • Afognak Island State Park
    • Where to sleep on the island of Kodiak

    How to reach us

    Kodiak Island is easily accessible. There are several options, starting in Anchorage and other areas of the mainland, such as the Kenai Peninsula or Prince William Sound.

    • By plane. The fastest way to reach the islands, as well as many inland areas in Alaska, is by plane. Kodiak Airport is connected to Anchorage by Alaska Airlines and Ravn Alaska aircraft. In addition, the Island Air Service and Servant Air offer a connection service with many islands and in the summer with Homer.
    • In nave. Kodiak Island is well connected to the mainland by the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System with three ports: Kodiak, Port Lions, and Old Harbor. You can then reach it from Homer or Whittier. It is also accessible by long-range ferries, thus arriving from the east from the Inside Passage, or from the west from the Aleutian islands.
    • In the car. If you are traveling by rental car, you can take your car on a ferry to be able to use it on the island as well. However, also depending on how many days you have available, evaluate if it is an expense that is worth being incurred.

    Climate and temperatures

    This archipelago presents one of the most livable climates in all of Alaska. The sea mitigates the temperatures a lot and therefore there are no large thermal excursions present on the continent. Remember that we are still in one of the coldest states in the world, so the average temperature is still low relative to what we are used to.

    Summer is the best season to go there. July and August, the hottest months, have on average a maximum daytime temperature of 16 ° and a minimum night temperature of 9 °. June and September are on average 3 ° colder than July and August. Winter is not freezing as in other areas: the coldest month is January and the average of the highs is 1/2 °, while that of the lows is -4 °. December and February are usually 1 ° higher than in January.

    Precipitation they are fairly regular throughout the year. The almost 2000mm of rainfall per year is spread over about 15-16 days a month. July and August are the driest months, while the wettest are October, December and January. In the winter, however, part of the precipitation is snowy.

    Kodiak Island

    Kodiak Island is not only the main island of the archipelago, but it is also the largest island in Alaska and the second in the USA after the Big Island of Hawaii. The homonymous city, Kodiak, is a center with just over 6000 inhabitants, which bases the bulk of its subsistence on fishing. It is the ideal reference point for any visit to the island: not only does it contain most of the points of historical and cultural interest, but from here the 160km of roads branch off that allow you to move around the island by car.

    The ideal place to start your visit is the Kodiak Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (100 Marine Way), where it is possible to have all kinds of information on the things to see and the activities to do in the archipelago. Moored among the numerous fishing boats, not far from the visitor center, it does not go unnoticed Star of Kodiak, the last American Liberty-class ship built during the Second World War.

    Russian museums and churches

    The Russian past of Alaska it is well testified in Kodiak, where churches and museums tell it with evident decision. To find out the best you can not miss a visit to Baranov Museum (101 Marine Way): The oldest Russian building in the United States, dating back to 1808. While it was originally a storage place for otter skins, today it houses a large collection of artifacts from the time when Alaska depended on Moscow .

    A block further we find the Holy Resurrection (385 Kashavarof Street), an Orthodox church with blue domes and preciously decorated interiors, which make it one of the main artistic and architectural beauties of Alaska. Talking about the Orthodox Christian religion is also the St. Herman Theological Seminary (414 Mission Road): One of only three Russian Orthodox seminaries in the United States.

    The island's position has made it ideal as a military outpost in times of war. To testify today is the military museum located at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park (1400 Abercrombie Drive). Not everyone will like the old concrete bunkers, but the view of the sea from here is another thing, where it is not uncommon to spot whales splashing on the surface of the water.

    Before the arrival of the Russian colonists, this land belonged to Alutiiq people. If you are in Kodiak, a visit to theAlutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository (215 Mission Road). Over 100.000 objects narrate the uses and customs of this and other Eskimo peoples, some of which are very particular, such as parkas made with seal entrails.

    Bear watching al Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

    today Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge it is one of the most interesting natural parks in Alaska. With its 800.000 hectares of wilderness, it occupies a large chunk of the island, as well as a part of Afognak Island and to the islands Uganik e Ban. It is the territory of over 3000 Kodiak bears, an endemic species of the archipelago, which are distinguished by being the largest brown bears in the world, competing for tonnage only with polar bears. Males of this breed can exceed 3m in height (standing upright on their hind legs) and reach 550kg in weight.

    Given the large number, the bears are very easy to find especially in summer, during the migration of salmon. If this fact facilitates sightings, it also makes a visit to the natural park dangerous and it is not recommended to venture out on your own. Referring to the Kodiak National Wildlife Visitor Center (402 Center Avenue), you can learn all about these animals in the museum part of the center and book a tour with local guides. On some tours you will move in the woods driving a quad bike, in others you will leave aboard a small seaplane: in short, there is something for all tastes.

    Tours, fishing and island events 

    Kodiak is not just bears. There are many other wild animals waiting to be seen and photographed or, in the case of fish, perhaps even captured and tasted. The island of Kodiak is among the Alaskan regions best equipped for tourists who want to try different experiences in nature.

    from fishing trips, both on the river and in the sea, ai tour in aeroplano to discover the various islands, from whalewatching for whale lovers to detailed guided tours of the island to discover every secret of the cultures and fauna that inhabit it. You will be able to rent a kayak to explore the coasts or a quad to insinuate you into the most hidden meanders of the interior. This page summarizes the island's offer to satisfy all tastes of a visitor.

    Kodiak is also home to interesting events that animate it throughout the year. It is held in March the ComFish Alaska, with exhibitions, games and activities related to fishing. In April, the focus is on the gray whales that return to these seas in the spring, thanks to the Whale Fest Kodiak, while the Kodiak Crab Fest of May is obviously dedicated to crabs. August is an interesting month from a cultural point of view: every year the Warm August Night animates the city with musical and culinary events, but above all on 9 August of each year the Orthodox Russians celebrate Saint Herman with a pilgrimage to the Monks' Lagoon by Spruce Island. September is the month of Kodiak Rodeo & State Fair, held every year on the Labor Day weekend, while in October the Run The Rock Marathon: a very demanding marathon and half marathon.

    smaller islands

    Although Kodiak is the largest and most relevant island, the archipelago holds other treasures. Interesting it is Spruce Island, easily accessible by ferries that land at the port of Ouzinkie. On this and on the least reachable St.Nilus Island there are communities of Russian Orthodox monks. The August 9 pilgrimage to the island is one of the most interesting religious experiences that can be lived in Alaska.

    Shuyak Island State Park

    Shuyak Island is one of the northernmost of the archipelago and is almost completely protected under the name of Shuyak Island State Park. The island is unique in its kind because there is a very particular coastal forest system: it contains only one species of tree, the Sitka spruce. The island is also interesting from a naturalistic point of view for the rich fauna, mostly birds and marine animals, which inhabit its jagged coasts. Deer and bears, on the other hand, are among the few mammals on the mainland.

    There are four public cabins on the island where you can camp overnight if you plan to spend several days there. On the official page you will find details and tips for exploring it.

    Afognak Island State Park

    Afognak Island is close to Kodiak Island and easily accessible by sea or by air. There are air links from Homer as well. In the north-east of the island we find theAfognak Island State Park, a large natural reserve of 75.000 hectares, rich in terrestrial and marine fauna. It is a paradise for salmon fishermen, thanks to the perfect reproductive habitat that its streams in the woods make for these fish.

    In a good part of the island they are allowed hunting and fishing and there are public huts where you can spend the night in a Spartan way. On the official page you can find detailed information. If you do not want to miss a comfortable bed between a fishing trip and another, you can stay at the Afognak Wilderness Lodge: an accommodation made of logs but equipped with every furniture, which is the main if not the only tourist accommodation on the island .

    Where to sleep on the island of Kodiak

    Most of the accommodations are concentrated in the village of Kodiak, the nerve center of the island. Here are some tips.

    Kodiak Compass Suites
    Shelikof Lodge
    Triple Tree Suites
    • Shelikof Lodge. In an excellent central location, it is one of the oldest hotels in the town, but remains one of the main points of reference for a stay on the island. One thing not to be underestimated if you arrive by plane is the free shuttle to the airport (7km away from the city).
    • Kodiak Compass Suites. The pleasure of staying in a good quality hotel, but with the convenience of having a kitchenette in the room, perhaps to cook yourself one of the excellent salmon caught during the day.
    • Triple Tree Suites. Like the previous one, it combines a well-kept room with the possibility of using the kitchen inside your suite. An aspect that should not be underestimated, considering that the prices of the restaurants on the island are not very cheap.

    Find accommodation in Kodiak

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