Thorne Bay is on the eastern shore of Prince of Wales Island. It rests on gentle hills overlooking its namesake bay, where Alaska Natives hunted and fished for centuries.
Ketchikan Pulp Co. brought their floating logging camp to shore here from Hollis in 1961, when timber was still the leading sector of the island’s economy. The “new economy” boasts a number of visitor services, as indicated by the icons shown here. K through 12 schools provide education while a U.S. Forest Service ranger district office and the field office for Southeast Road Builders provide employment for families in the area. Thorne Bay is linked to the rest of the Island by the state Scenic Byways. Thorne Bay can also be accessed via several floatplane services and private boats.
Visitors entering on the main road find a unique welcome sign plaza housed in “The Claw”—the world’s largest log-handling grapple. Thorne Bay was home for the world’s largest logging camps in the 1960s. In 1982, a State of Alaska land sale program gave residents the opportunity to incorporate their city. Fishing, beachcombing, clamming and hiking are close by in the bay and up the Thorne River. Thorne Bay is also the access point for the popular USFS-maintained Eagles Nest Campground as well as the Balls Lake and Sandy Beach picnic areas. An archeologically significant 5,360-year-old spruce root basket—”The Thorne River Basket”—was found in the estuary of the Thorne River in 1998 and is preserved in the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.
Point Baker is on the northern tip of Prince of Wales Island in a protected harbor that opens onto Sumner Strait. The community is accessible only by boat or floatplane. Since being settled in the early 1900s, the community has prospered through the fishing industry.
The first store and post office were opened by 1941. Today a 440-foot state float is the “floating downtown” and includes a floatplane dock; store; cafe; saloon; fuel sales; laundry and shower; community building; post office; and volunteer fire department.
Point Baker is currently 25 households strong; residents are commercial gillnet and troll fishermen. In summer, the harbor has full-service and do-it-yourself lodges and hosts traveling cruisers from all over the U.S., drawn by great fishing for Alaskan salmon and halibut and for opportunities to observe humpback whales.
A blog posted by a resident of the island provides fascinating perspectives on this area in
words and photos; take your browser to www.alaskafloatsmyboat.com.
Klawock is on the central western shore of Prince of Wales Island. Because of its location, Klawock is the “Crossroads” of the island. The paved Scenic Byways intersect here, leading south to Craig, east to Hollis and the ferry terminal and north to communities on the northern half of the Island. Many services are available in the community, as indicated by the icons. Klawock can lay claim to a pair of distinctions: the community has the largest employee-owned sawmill and only airport runway on the Island. Klawock also has a deepwater port suitable for loading large ships.
The townsite was a summer fishing camp until Tlingit chief Kloo-wah permanently moved his clan here from a village in Moira Sound. Klawock is known historically as the site of the first salmon cannery in Alaska. Klawock is a significant center of Tlingit culture, with an annual celebration of Elizabeth Peratrovich’s pioneering civil rights
work on behalf of Alaska Natives.
The totem park has 21 poles that are masterfully carved replicas of the original totem poles that stood in Tuxekan, the original winter village of the Heenya Kwaan people. In recent years, the raising of new totem poles in the traditional manner has prompted grand celebrations. A heritage center with a longhouse and a carving shed are near the edge of town. Visitors are welcome to see the carving activity and visit with the carvers when they are working.
One of two Haida villages in Alaska, Kasaan is on the east side of Prince of Wales Island on Kasaan Bay off Clarence Strait. It is accessible via a 17- mile gravel road that begins near the Goose Creek Bridge on Thorne Bay Highway. The road is one of the island’s Scenic Byways and offers unique views and a turnout at Tolstoi Bay.
Kasaan gets its name from the Tlingit word “Gasa’aan,” meaning “pretty town” or “pretty village.” Haida people migrated north from Haida Gwaii (in present-day British Columbia) and established the village now known as “Old Kasaan” seven miles from today’s Kasaan. In 1892, the Copper Queen mine camp, sawmill, post office and store were built on Kasaan Bay. Haida people relocated to the new village from Old Kasaan. In 1902, a salmon cannery was built in Kasaan and operated off and on until 1953.
A two-third-mile walk on a forest trail leads to Kasaan Totem Historic District and Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House. The Whale House or Naay I’waans, “The Great House,” built around 1880, is the only traditional Haida longhouse standing in the U.S. In the 1930s, totems from the old village were moved to the totem park. Between 1938 and 1940, Civilian Conservation Corps carvers restored the longhouse. Visitors may enjoy the remote setting but should remain mindful of the sacredness of the site. Kavilco Inc. and the Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK) joined to restore Naay I’waans and re-dedicated the site in 2016. Guided tours are available by contacting OVK at 907-542-2230. Kavilco Inc. and OVK have an exclusive agreement for all tours.
The City of Kasaan and the Organized Village of Kasaan offer lodging by reservation; call 907-542-2212. OVK has two 2-bedroom cabins that sleep as many as six; call 907-542-2230. Kasaan sells fuel on a limited basis; call 907-542-2212 for scheduled times. Espresso drinks and food are available at the Totem Trail Cafe. For the safety of our residents, visitors are asked not to shoot firearms within the city limits—a large area around the main town site.