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Americas third-largest island is of particular worth to those interested in native communities, sea kayaking, and driving. The island offers more road miles than any other region in the Southeast and can be explored in vehicles as cumbersome as an RV. The main communities each have their attractions, though all are off the beaten track. Access to the island is by scheduled small aircraft, floatplane, or charter boat, most of which are based in Ketchikan. An A.M.H.S. ferry connects Ketchikan with Hollis about once a day, enabling vehicles to reach the island.
Most of the island is part of the Tongass National Forest, though there are also large inclusions of native corporation and private lands. There are two small designated wilderness areas, as well as three other island wildernesses on the Pacific north coast (see Tongass National Forest, above). The final decision on the Tongass Management Plan in April, 1999, completed protection of wilderness study areas and other forest lands, but the island will remain one of the most exploited areas in the Southeast. Still, the relatively slow pace of timber harvesting on federal lands and the regenerative powers of a rain-forest climate ensure that visitors will experience a lush and wild landscape in most areas.
Five national forest campgrounds are accessible by road on Prince of Wales Island. They are Exchange Cove in the far northeast on National Forest Road #30; Eagles Nest on Thorne Bay Road just east of the Prince of Wales Road junction; Lake Number 3 near Salt Chuck on National Forest Road #2030; Staney Creek Bridge on National Forest Road #2050 west of Prince of Wales Road; and nearby Horseshoe Hole at the ocean end of National Forest Road #5034. All five are listed as no-fee campgrounds with no drinking water.
Five coastal towns of consequence are found on the island, as are several smaller communities. All are accessible by floatplane or small-plane air service, or by road from the ferry terminal in Hollis. For information, contact the Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 497, Craig, AK 99921, 826-3870.
Coffman Cove (population 254, 7 percent native)Located about 50 miles northeast of Klawock by various roads, Coffman Cove was first settled as a logging camp in the 1970s. There is access across Clarence Strait to the south Etolin Wilderness. Gas and general supplies are available, but there are no accommodations or outfitters.
Craig (population 1,946, 22.9 percent native)Located 31 miles from Hollis, Craig has three hotels and a variety of travel services. Commercial fishing and fleet support services occupy most residents. Charter air and boat services are available, as are canoe and kayak rentals (see the Appendix). With the sheltered waters of Prince of Wales Islands west coast at hand, Craig makes a good base for exploration of the bays, channels, and outer islands. For information, contact City Office, Craig City Hall, 826-3275, email@example.com; U.S. Forest Service office, 826-3271.
Hollis (population 106, 2.7 percent native)Once an important mining camp and later an important logging camp, Hollis was rejuvenated once again with the development of the ferry terminal and state land sales to potential new residents. Logging and ferry jobs occupy most residents. Travel services are limited.
Hydaburg (population 406, 89.1 percent Haida)This largely native community grew from the combined populations of three older Haida villages around 1911. Most residents are occupied by commercial fishing, construction, and timber harvesting. Of particular interest in town is the Totem Park, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The park contains a fine collection of new and restored Haida totems. Hydaburg is a good put-in point for long-distance kayakers intending to explore the South Prince of Wales Wilderness. The town has a cafe. Limited lodging opportunities are not far away.
Klawock (population 759, 54.3 percent native)Site of a traditional Tlingit fish camp, Klawock is where Alaskas first salmon cannery was built in 1878. Fishing and timber-related jobs occupy most residents. Nearby lodges cater to sport fishers, while in-town services are limited. Boat charters and rentals are available (see the Appendix).
Thorne Bay (population 650, 1.2 percent native)Basically a non-native logging town, Thorne Bay is located on the bay of the same name along Clarence Strait on the islands east side. Most residents are involved in timber harvesting or forest management. Thorne Bay Road connects the town with Klawock. The road is a good way to cross the island and, via Prince of Wales Road and Forest Service roads, gain access to its northern end.