ON THE MAP – KODIAK

(map illustration by Jay Jacobs)

More than just big bears.

[by Michelle Theall]


Welcome to Kodiak, best known for the brown bears that have been isolated on this island for more than 12,000 years. The result is a subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos middendor ) with its own unique traits—notably its huge size. While there’s plenty of bear viewing on Kodiak, the island itself is second in size only to Hawaii in the United States, so there’s lots to see and do. Beautiful white-sand beaches and abundant recreational opportunities combine with a rich Russian and Native Alaska history and exceptional fishing to create an idyllic Alaska experience.

1 – Kodiak Fisheries Research Center: Home to cutting-edge marine research, the KFRC features touch tanks that allow visitors to handle a variety of tide-pools species, including sea stars, mollusks, and crabs. Interpretive displays on wildlife and the fishing industry, along with a 3,500-gallon, 10-foot aquarium make for an educational and entertaining outing for the entire family. afsc.noaa.gov/kodiak

2 – Andrew Airways, Bear Viewing and Flightseeing: Whether you want to spend a day touring a glacier or volcano, viewing bears or flightseeing Kodiak Island, Andrew Airways provides the knowledge, logistical coordination, guides, and transport for an exhilarating Alaska adventure. Try a full-day guided fl oat trip through bear country on the waters where the Kodiak brown bears catch their dinner. andrewairways.com

3 – Alutiiq Museum: With an impressive artifact collection of more than 25,000 pieces, the Alutiiq Museum provides an extensive look at a Native culture spanning 7,500 years. You’ll find a historic qayaq (kayak) discovered in 1869, along with others made from driftwood, animal skins, tendon, and whale baleen. Weavings, oral histories, photographs, and a wamwik (traditional Native house) filled with Native-themed games and toys delight adults and children alike. alutiiqmuseum.org

4 – Alaskan Wilderness Adventures, Kodiak by Kayak: Get up close and personal with Kodiak’s marine wildlife by kayak surfing with Alaskan Wilderness Adventures. Paddle the remote bays to view whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters, and tufted and horned puffins. Catering to photography, the stable double kayaks allow either fore or aft paddler to steer while the other party takes pictures. Even camera dry bags are included. kodiakwildside.com

5 – Kodiak Brown Bear Center: Escape from the tourists into Alutiiq sacred wilderness to view bears in their natural habitat along the Karluk Lake drainage. Managed by a Kodiak-area regional Native corporation, the KBBC offers an authentic, remote experience with no roads or private cabins, limited to just six visitors at a time, within the heart of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. kodiakbearcenter.com

6 – Reel Extreme Alaska, ATV Fishing Excursion: One of the best ways to see Kodiak might just be from behind the wheel of an ATV en route 20 miles into the backcountry to the legendary fishing spot of Saltery Cove. Reel Extreme Alaska reports record numbers of sockeye salmon this year, with pinks and silvers yet to come. Want more? Beyond salmon, you’ll catch rainbow trout, Dollies, and steelhead while occasionally spotting brown bears, bald eagles, foxes, or even wild horses. reelextremealaska.com


PILLAR MOUNTAIN

A five-mile round-trip hike up Pillar Mountain yields 360-degree views of the Kodiak Archipelago and surrounding Pacific Ocean. As the bears also use the trail, you might see those as well. But the mountain offers more than spectacular, vast scenery and a good, quad-burning sweat. It brings Kodiak closer to its goal of having 100 percent renewable energy. 

  • The Pillar Mountain wind farm is the first wind-farm utility in the state of Alaska.
  • Since 2014, Kodiak has independently powered itself with its own wind and water.
  • Wind power generated from the turbines atop Pillar Mountain displaces more than 2 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.
  • A bill for 600 kilowatt hours of electricity in Kodiak is $102 less expensive than in places like Homer, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.
  • Around 15 percent of Kodiak’s power comes from wind and the remainder is provided by the utility’s Terror Lake hydro facility.
  • A total of six wind turbines are currently in operation. The project began with three.