Prince of Wales Island
Prince of Wales Island in Alaska is
dominated by a cool and moist maritime climate. During the
summers, the average temperatures vary from 45 to 75 degrees
F. Yearly precipitation averages from 60 to 200 inches, based
on the exact locale.
Prince of Wales is part of the Alexander
Archipelago in the southernmost portion of the Alaska
panhandle and is the third largest island in the United States
(Kodiak is the largest island and Hawaii is the second). This
island is 135 miles long and 40 miles across. Its 990 miles of
coastline has numerous bays, coves, inlets and points. The
landscape is characterized by steep, forested mountains and
deep U-shaped valleys that were carved out by glacial ice that
once covered this area.
Flora: The forests are primarily
Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce, Red Cedar, Alaska Yellow
Cedar, Red Alder, and Pacific Silver. The ground cover
consists largely of blueberry and huckleberry bushes, young
evergreens, moss, ferns, devil's club, and lichens.
Muskeg is a term you are likely to hear in
a description of the land. The western climate never allows
the vegetation to completely decay, making a network of roots
and branches scattered with soil and covered with sphagnum
moss. It is very common throughout Alaska and adds a spring to
Flowering Plants: (The type of
flowering plants you will see) are typically Beach Pea, Beach
Strawberry, Cow Parsnip, Wild Iris, Yarrow, Red Paintbrush,
Seabeach Sandwort, Western Columbine, Goosetongue, Indian
Rice, Wild Celery, Beach Asparagus, Ryegrass, and Vetch.
Fauna: The most prevalent mammals
in this area are black bears, wolves, Sitka blacktail deer,
mink, martens, river otters, sea lions, seals, red squirrels,
and beaver. One of the most thrilling birds is the bald eagle.
More bald eagles are concentrated in Southeastern Alaska than
anywhere else in the world. Ravens and eagles are birds
honored by the Native Indians. Much of the art of their
culture depicts these two birds from which the various clans
derive their family crests. There are more than 200 species of
birds indigenous to Alaska. Some of the varieties you may see
are loon, heron, kingfisher, tern, swallow, sandpiper,
woodpecker, robin, Stellar's jay, thrush, murre, auklet, gull,
and many species of ducks. In the latter part of the season,
the air resounds with calls from Canadian Geese in flight.
There are many species of whales in
surrounding waters. The Gray Whales have a grayish appearance
and "knuckles" where a dorsal fin would otherwise
be. The world's only remaining population of these whales is
located off the coast of western North America, where they
make a 13,000-mile round trip from Alaska to Baja California
-- the longest migration of any mammal.
The Humpback Whale is easily recognized by
its long flippers and lumpy dorsal fin and is considered rare
throughout the world. These whales were once numerous but
still are slow swimmers, and they were the first species taken
whenever whalers moved into a new area. It is estimated that
there are no more than 5,000 humpbacks left in the world. This
is the "singing whale" whose songs have been the
subject of several records.
The Killer Whale or Orca is the most widely
distributed of all cetaceans and is found throughout all of
the oceans of the world. Males can reach a length of 30 feet,
females only 28 feet. They are fast, powerful, and intelligent
and are surprisingly docile when in captivity.
Fish: Prince of Wales Island and
Waterfall are recognized for the great number and size of
trout and salmon found in the surrounding waters. Included
are: King or Chinook salmon, Silver or Coho salmon, Red or
Sockeye salmon, Dog or Chum salmon, Pink or Humpback salmon,
Dolly Varden char, rainbow, steelhead, and cutthroat trout.
Depending on the species, good fishing begins in mid-April and
extends through September. In the waters surrounding
Waterfall Resort, Kings have been caught to 70+ pounds,
Silvers 20+ pounds, and Halibut may weight over 300 pounds.