By C. Wu
While Alaska tends to evoke wintery images of vast snowfields and polar bears, the cold is not all it has to offer. Summertime is lush and green, chock full of wondrous sites to see. Here are just a few of them:
1. Sitka National Historical Park : Sitka, AK
Sitka National Historical Park is located on the peninsula where the Battle of Sitka took place. The battle was between the indigenous Tlingit people and invading Russian traders; the park aims to preserve both the nature and history of this area. Along the coastal trail are Tlingit and Haida totem poles. The park contains temperate rain forests, open meadows, the Indian River estuary, and various other coastal ecosystems. Animals found in Sitka NHP include eagles, sea otters, blacktail deer, Barinoff ermines, and brown bears.
[Sika National Historical Park image] Caption: The southern end of Sitka National park
2. Alaska Raptor Center : Sitka, AK
Located north of the Sitka National Historical Park, the Alaska Raptor Center treats injured birds, teaches people about conservation and Alaska’s birds, and researches bald eagles. Visitors can learn about raptor conservation and see the Raptors-In-Residence, the resident birds that won’t be able to return to the wild even through rehabilitation.
[Alaska Raptor Center image] Caption: Karma, one of the Alaska Raptor Center’s Raptors-In-Residence
3. The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary : Ketchikan, AK
The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a rich ecosystem in 40 acres of spruce, hemlock, and cedar. Black bears, American martens, American minks, wolves, bald eagles, and common ravens are some animals found in the sanctuary. In the summer months, chinook salmon, pink salmon, coho salmon, and chum salmon run through Eagle Creek. Harbor seals are drawn to spawning salmon. Displayed throughout the sanctuary are beautiful totem poles carved by Wayne Hewson, a Tsimshian artist; he works in the Rainforest Sanctuary carving facility.
[The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary image] Caption: Black bears can be found in the sanctuary
4. Tracy Arm Fjord : Juneau, AK
Along the Tracy Arm Fjord are awe-inspiring mountains, glaciers and icebergs. Ice calving occurs at Sawyer Glacier, which means huge pieces of ice will fall from the glacier and crash into the water; the falling ice can be as large as a cruise ship. Animals around the fjord include mountain goats, whales, bears, harbor seals, and birds.
[Tracy Arm image] Caption: A majestic wall of ice at the Tracy Arm Fjord
5. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park : Skagway, AK
During the Klondike Gold Rush, over 20,000 people traveled the trails of what is today the Gold Rush National Historical Park. The park has also been deemed a biodiversity “hotspot” by ecologists, home to one of the most diverse arrays of plants in Alaska as well as animals like pikas and arctic ground squirrels. Glacial valleys, ever-changing due to ecological and geological processes, provide stunning landscapes.
[Chilkoot image] Chilkoot Trail, once crossed by goldseekers
This is only a small selection of primarily nature-related sites; Alaska’s rich natural and cultural history offers plenty more to explore.
(Images are sourced from the linked websites)