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.
Port Protection is nestled in a quiet cove three miles south of the northern tip of the west side of Prince of Wales Island. Access is by boat or floatplane. A gravel boat launch at Labouchere Bay, a little more than a mile from the community, provides access to the road system.
In the early 1900s, Wooden Wheel Johnson gave the cove its name. A trading post established in 1946 ran for a quarter of a century, growing into a warehouse, rental cabins, dock facilities and fuel sales. The permanent community of Port Protection was established in 1981 through the state’s land disposal program.
Commercial fishing is the principal industry; gillnetters and trollers homeport here. Local artists produce drawings, paintings, carvings of wooden boxes and writing. Full-service and self-service lodging is available nearby. A boardwalk in the forest provides charming access to residents’ homes. Most services are seasonal in Port Protection. Call Wooden Wheel Cove Trading Post for updated information: 907-489-2222.
For remarkable photographic and narrative perspectives on this community and the area,
see an island resident's blog at www.alaskafloatsmyboat.com.
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.
Naukati Bay on the northwestern shore of Prince of Wales Island began as a logging camp and remains an unincorporated community. Historically, Alaska Natives camped here and called the bay Naukatee. It is the gateway to Sea Otter Sound, which is rich in marine life and wildlife.
Several attractions draw people to the community and services available here are indicated by the icons to the right.
A floating dock and boat launch are near the Naukati Bay Shellfish Nursery, where oyster spat (seeds) are grown and provided to a number of oyster farms in the area. Naukati Bay is the hub of the fast-growing oyster production industry on Prince of Wales Island. Commercial operations around Sea Otter Sound range from small farms, with about 100,000 oysters in floating arrays, to large facilities that keep as many as 1.5 million oysters feeding on the sound's rich nutrients. Oysters from this area are sold to Alaskan retailers, the cruise industry, lodges and restaurants and shellfish connoisseurs as far away as Hawaii.
A covered picnic area is open to the public and is a favorite gathering place for community activities. Naukati Bay’s Fourth of July celebration includes an axe throwing contest, a skunk cabbage contest and games for children, closing with a brilliant display of fireworks.
The community is on the way to many of the Forest Service’s well-maintained trails; numerous creeks and lakes are also nearby off the Scenic Byway. Accessible from the Naukati Bay area are Sarkar Lake Canoe Loop; Beaver Falls Boardwalk Trail; El Capitan Cave; and Cavern Lake trail. RV parking is available, but not other RV services.