Population: 3,147

Petersburg is located in Southeast Alaska on the northern tip of Mitkof Island at the northern end of Wrangell Narrows, midway between Juneau and Ketchikan. 

Visitor Information: The Petersburg Visitor Information Center is located in a historic ranger station at 1st and Fram streets. The 24-foot by 28-foot 2-story wooden structure holds a surprising amount of information, including an interactive marine mammal kiosk, Alaska Salmon recipes, maps and brochures. The center is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., from May 5 to the first week in September; winter hours may vary. The visitor center is open limited hours on other days for cruise ship dockings. Write Petersburg Visitor Information Center, Box 649, Petersburg, AK 99833; phone 907-772-4636; www.petersburg.org.

Petersburg boasts the largest home-based fishing fleet in Alaska and is also well known for its shrimp, crab, salmon, herring and other fish products. Many families here depend on the fishing industry for their livelihood.

The town grew up around a sawmill, dock and salmon cannery built in 1897-99 by Peter Buschmann, after whom the town was named. The post office was established in 1900. Buschmann was followed by other Norwegian immigrants who came to fish and work in the cannery and sawmill. Since then the cannery has operated continuously (with rebuilding, expansion and different owners) and is now known as OBI, a joint venture of Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Petersburg Fisheries Inc. OBI shares the waterfront with 1 other cannery, other cold storage plants and several other fish processing facilities.

The Borough Hall and the Federal Building are both located downtown. Nearby, at the corner of Nordic and Haugen, are 2 healing totem poles, one commemorating the Eagle Clan and the other, the Raven Clan. The poles were carved by Sitka carver Tommy Joseph.

Attractions
Clausen Memorial Museum

Clausen Memorial Museum, 203 Fram Street, has displays on the Petersburg area logging and fishing histories, Norwegian heritage, Tlingit and Haida artifacts, a world-record 126.5-lb. chinook salmon, the Cape Decision light station, a Tlingit canoe, and children’s Discovery Center. The museum store offers local and regional handicrafts, books and gifts. The Fisk (Norwegian for fish), a 10-foot bronze sculpture by Carson Boysen commemorating Petersburg’s fishing tradition, stands in a working fountain in a small park adjacent the museum. It was completed in 1967, during the Alaska centennial. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday in summer. Phone 907-772-3598; clausenmuseum@gmail.com. Admission is $5 per person. Members and children under 12 are free.

Little Norway Festival

Little Norway Festival, the third weekend each May, celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day. It features old-country dress, contests, Vikings & Valkyries, a Viking ship, dancing, Norwegian pastries, a parade and a Norwegian “fish feed” for locals and visitors.

Iconic Sons of Norway Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by David L. Ranta)
Sons of Norway Hall

Sons of Norway Hall, on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1912. Situated on pilings along Sing Lee Alley overlooking Hammer Slough (a favorite photography subject), its window shutters are decorated with rosemaling (Norwegian tole painting).

Fisherman’s Memorial Park

Fisherman’s Memorial Park, next to the Sons of Norway Hall, commemorates those townspeople lost at sea. The Viking ship Valhalla, next to the memorial, is another favorite photo subject.

Whale Watching

Of the estimated 6,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific, approximately 2,000 feed in Southeast Alaska during the summer, and nearly half of those enter Frederick Sound, just north of Petersburg.

A whale watching cruise tour out of Petersburg provides consistent and often spectacular whale viewing. These whale watching trips start in May and continue through the summer, with July and August the prime viewing time for humpbacks. Hundreds of humpbacks congregate in Frederick Sound and lower Stephen’s Passage. Other large marine mammals to see are killer whales, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals and Steller sea lions, often seen on the local docks and buoys in the Wrangell Narrows. Bird watching on these trips includes marbled murrelets, scoters and pigeon guillemots. Charters generally take 6–14 people per trip; advance booking is strongly recommended. Contact Viking Travel, Inc., phone 907-772-3818.

©Sharon Nault
LeConte Glacier

LeConte Glacier (pictured above), a major area attraction, lies 25 miles east of Petersburg in LeConte Glacier Bay. It is the continent’s southernmost active tidewater glacier and the fastest flowing glacier in the world. The glacier often “calves,” creating icefalls from its face into the bay. Seals are common and killer whales are sometimes seen. Helicopters, small aircraft and boats may be chartered in Petersburg (or Wrangell) to see LeConte Glacier. Tongass Kayak Adventures offers guided orca and boat trips to LeConte Glacier; visit www.tongasskayak.com. Contact Viking Travel, Inc., phone 907-772-3818.

Sandy Beach Road

Make a 4.5-mile loop drive beginning downtown on Nordic Drive, which quickly turns into Sandy Beach Road. First stop (and also an easy 0.1-mile walk from downtown) is Eagle’s Roost Park, which has picnic tables and usually a couple of eagles roosting in the trees.

Continue on Sandy Beach Road 1.4 miles to Outlook Park. This park is tucked in between waterfront homes, with a picnic area and easy access to beach. Outlook has a small parking area, shelter and 2 spotting scopes. Look for humpback and orca whales in Frederick Sound from June through September.

Continue 1.1 miles beyond Outlook Park to Sandy Beach Park, which offers picnic tables, 3 shelters, firepits, playground, volleyball court and a sandy beach. Parking is a little more generous at Sandy Beach Park: there are roadside spaces and a gravel parking lot (not recommended for RVs). This park is located at the junction with Haugen Drive, which takes you 1.7 miles back to downtown Petersburg. Take the trail past the troll bridge for a seaside walk through the woods.

Across from Sandy Beach Park, the Raven Trail features about a mile of wheelchair-accessible path heading up towards Raven’s Roost Cabin. At the top of the mile-long trail is a beautiful view of Frederick Sound, with benches to sit on.

U.S. Forest Service public-use cabins, canoe/kayaking routes and hiking trails may be accessed from Petersburg, which is the administrative center for the Stikine Area of Tongass National Forest. For information, stop by the USFS office in the Federal Building, or write the Petersburg Ranger District, P.O. Box 1328, Petersburg, AK 99833; phone 907-772-3871; www.fs.usda.gov/tongass.

The Visitor Center also has printouts with information on forest service cabins, trails and other recreation in the Tongass.

Take a drive

The 34-mile-long Mitkof Highway and 21-mile Three Lakes Loop Road may only add up to 55 miles of road system, but there are quite a few interesting spots to stop along these routes.

Watch for Sitka black-tailed deer along the road system, especially in June and July when does bring their fawns to feed on lush roadside plants. Fawns sometimes bed down right on the road, so be alert while driving.

The boardwalk trail (handicap-accessible) at Blind River Rapids, Milepost 14.2 Mitkof Highway, is not only a popular destination for fishermen, it also offers a close-up view of muskeg. Muskeg covers 10 percent of Alaska.

Salmon migration and spawning may be observed July through September at Falls Creek bridge and fish ladder, see Milepost 10.7 Mitkof Highway.

Three Lakes Loop Road

Three Lakes Loop Road makes a nice side trip and an opportunity to experience a temperate rainforest. Stop in at the Visitor Center for a map of this area. This narrow, winding gravel road loops off the Mitkof Highway between Mileposts 10.6 and 20.4, providing access to boardwalk trails. Spectacular view of the mainland from LeConte Glacier Overlook. Rental cars are not allowed on Three Lakes Loop Road.

And make sure to stop for a picnic at one of Mitkof Highway’s scenic picnic sites. Man-Made Hole at Milepost 19.7 is a beautiful spot, with a handicap-accessible boardwalk trail, picnic tables and shelter. Blind Slough, at Milepost 17.2, is adjacent the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery.

The Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery

The Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery produces coho and chinook salmon for local waters. No tours, but hatchery personnel will answer questions. Visitors welcome Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Area Fishing

Salmon, steelhead, cut-throat and Dolly Varden fishing at Falls Creek, Blind Slough and Blind River Rapids. Salmon can be caught in the harbor area and Scow Bay area. (Rapid tidal currents in front of the town necessitate the use of an outboard motor.) Dolly Varden can be caught from the beach north of town and from downtown docks. Petersburg Creek, directly across Wrangell Narrows from downtown within Petersburg Creek–Duncan Salt Chuck Wilderness Area, also offers good fishing. Contact the Sport Fish Division of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game in Petersburg at 907-772-5231 for more information.

Petersburg King Salmon Derby takes place Memorial Day weekend. Check with the Visitor Information Center for details; phone 907-772-4636 or visit www.petersburg.org.

Lodging & Services

Lodging downtown at 2 hotels/motels and several bed-and-breakfasts; visit www. Petersburg.org for listings. Dining downtown at Coastal Cold Storage and Deli, The Salty Pantry, Papa Bear’s Pizza, Inga’s Galley, Helse, and El Zarape. The 5-block-long downtown commercial area on Main Street (Nordic Drive) and old town Sing Lee Alley has a grocery store; 2 coffee shops, hardware store, marine and fishing supply stores; drugstore; bookstore, a travel agency (Viking Travel, Inc.); banks (Wells Fargo and First Bank Alaska); 2 liquor stores, 2 bars; fresh/frozen fish market that offers shipping; gift shops, art gallery; and clothing stores specializing in both Alaska and Norwegian items. Auto repair, towing, gas and diesel at the corner of 2nd and Haugen. Additional auto repair, vehicle and marine fuel can be found at the corner of South Nordic Drive and Dock Street, about 0.75 mile from downtown.

Petersburg has a post office and 13 churches. The spacious Hammer and Wikan grocery/deli is located a half-mile from downtown on Haugen Drive. The public library is located at the corner of South 2nd and Haugen Drive.

Contact Petersburg Parks & Recreation (www.petersburgrec.com) for details on the community fitness center with weight room, racquetball court, fitness court, activity/cardio room, 6-lane pool with lap swim, masters swim, water aerobics, therapeutic walking and open swim times, and pool with waterslide. The fitness center and pool complex are located on the Petersburg School District campus, between the high school and elementary school, on Charles W. Street off 3rd Street. Petersburg Parks & Recreation also offers kayak, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals; phone 907-772-3392.

Camping

Frogs RV Park with hookups at Milepost 2.9 Mitkof Highway and The Trees RV Park with hookups and general store at Milepost 10.2. The nearest public campground is Ohmer Creek USFS Campground (unmaintained), at Milepost 21.4 Mitkof Highway, with 10 sites (RVs to 35 feet). There are campsites at Green’s Camp Campground on Sumner Strait at Milepost 26.1 and Wilson Creek Recreational area at Milepost 28 Mitkof Highway.

Parking lot, RV dump station and facility entrance located at 500 N. 3rd St., off Wrangell Ave. $15 one-time fee, $45 annual fee. For access to dump station visitors must go into the office; open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to

9 p.m.; closed on federal or state holidays. To reach Parks and Recreation, phone 907-772-3392. The Tree’s RV Park at Milepost 10.2 Mitkof Highway offers a dump station: $25 for drive-up or $20 for guests of the Park.

Transportation

Air: Daily scheduled jet service by Alaska Airlines, 907-772-4255, to major Southeast cities and Seattle, WA, with connections to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Other local air services include Nordic Air 907-518-0244.

The airport is located 1 mile from the Federal Building on Haugen Drive. It has a ticket counter and waiting room. Hotel courtesy van and taxi service available.

Ferry: Alaska Marine Highway ferries dock at the ferry terminal at Milepost 0.8 Mitkof Highway. It is not a long walk to downtown from the ferry terminal, unless you arrive late at night and it’s raining or you have a lot of luggage. Terminal facilities include ticket office, waiting room and vehicle waiting area; phone 907-772-3855. Reservations 1-800-642-0066. For tariffs and schedules visit www.ferryalaska.com.

Car Rental: Allstar Car Rentals at Scandia House Hotel, phone 907-772-4281; Highliner Car Rental at The Tides Inn, phone 907-772-4288; U-Haul at Petersburg Motors, phone 907-772-3223.

Taxi: Island Cab, phone 907-518-1279; City Cab, phone 907-772-2489. Highways: The 34-mile Mitkof Highway; 21-mile Three Lakes Loop Road; and Sandy Beach Road.

Cruise Ships: Cruise ships dock at Petersburg’s South Harbor, Petro Marine dock and at the Drive Down Float.

Private Boats: There are 3 boat harbors that can accommodate up to a 200 ft. vessel. Transient vessels check with harbormaster; VHF Channel 16/9; phone 907-772-4688.

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