Kodiak bears are everywhere on the island. Not just in natural form – their visage is permanently interwoven into the island’s identity. Whether they are splayed across every company logo, pictured in every diner, painted on town walls; the giant brown bears are central to pretty much every tourist attraction on the island. Which is not particularly surprising, as the Kodiak National Wildlife Reserve takes up over two thirds of the island’s area (the second largest island in America, behind the big island of Hawaii) – the reserve and the surrounding archipelago are home to about 3000 of the huge bears, and are the main reason that many travel across the water to Kodiak Island. Nowhere else will you be able to see the Kodiak bears up so close, which is why there are more than enough tours and other guided excursions that set off into the wild every day, looking to catch a glimpse of brown fur amid the island’s terrain.
Many visitors fly into Kodiak Island, though there are plenty of aquatic vessels ready to steer you across the channels, usually originating in Anchorage or other ports along the Kenai Peninsula. The center of the island is the city of Kodiak Alaska, and the main jumping off point for any number of wilderness tours and adventures. And don’t come thinking that the Alaskan wilderness is somehow aggrandized or exaggerated in reputation – it is just as tricky and unpredictable as you would expect. And just as beautiful, too. The magnificent green mountains give Kodiak Island its appropriate nickname, “The Emerald Isle,” but it is still the bears that call those forests home that give the island its heart and soul.
The place is not entirely about the Kodiak bears, though. Foxes and otters are just as fun to watch, and significantly less difficult to maneuver around. Birdwatchers also congregate on the island, picking out bald eagles and hawk owls, puffins and osprey.
The largest fishing fleets in the country are moored here, and there are hundreds of commercial fishing boats that set off into the Pacific each morning. The salmon and halibut of the area are remarkable, not to mention the Kodiak crabs, and there are almost as many fishing tours available as there are wilderness tours. Sportsmen charter boats all up and down the island’s rugged coastline, though Larsen Bay is quickly becoming the most popular spot, about fifteen miles from Kodiak.
There are also quite a few traces of the past throughout Kodiak Island. The first Russian settlement was found here in 1784 – the Baranov Museum chronicles the area’s history from then, through the Alaska Purchase and beyond. There is also the Alutiiq Museum, which specializes in the native peoples that originally called Kodiak Alaska home.
But the wildlife is why most visitors seek out Kodiak Island – and why not? The lush mountainsides, lumbering wildlife and deserted forests make the island a dream come true for any one who feels truly at home in the wilderness.