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Location/Size: At the mouth of the Stikine River, northeast of Wrangell and east of Petersburg; 448,926 acres.
Main Activities: Kayaking, canoeing, rafting, powerboating, wilderness exploration, mountaineering.
Gateway Towns/Getting There: Wrangell and Petersburg/scheduled ferry service from Ketchikan and Juneau; regular small-plane air service. Park access via personal watercraft from Wrangell, Petersburg, British Columbia; rafting via water drop-off or British Columbia; foot access via drop-offs.
Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Hot-springs tubs and short access trail. Several reservable backcountry cabins, a few free shelters, primitive camping only.
Headquarters and Information: Petersburg Ranger District, Tongass National Forest, 12 N. Nordic Dr., Petersburg, AK 99833, 772-3871.
LeConte Bay to the north and the Stikine River to the south are the two main areas of attraction in the wilderness. Wrangell is a good base for exploring the wide flats of the Stikine River mouth and accessing the lower channels, but Petersburg is a better overall base for developing loop routes and avoiding the winds north of Wrangell.
After 300 miles in Canada, the Stikine River finishes its long run with a 30-mile segment in Alaska, dissipating into the ocean via many channels across expansive tidal flats. Long-distance river runners begin journeys at Telegraph Creek, 70 road miles from Dease Lake, British Columbia, or perhaps even further upstream from the Cassiar Highway. Others use air drop-offs, or paddle upstream from Wrangell or the end of the Mitkof Highway (AK 7) from Petersburg. About 20 miles upstream, the all-too-popular Chief Shakes Hot Springs offers wooden tubs to soakers, often those whove arrived via powerboat with no shortage of cheap beer. The springs are about 3 miles upriver from the mouth of Shakes Slough, which provides access to a lovely, steep-walled bay at the foot of Shakes Glacier. There are several reservable cabins along the Stikine.
To the north, LeConte Bay opens into Frederick Sound southeast of Petersburg, allowing water access to the southernmost tidewater glacier in the state, LeConte Glacier. The glacier is long and sinuous, blending into vast icefields among the high, sharp peaks of the Coast Range. Icebergs often litter the bay, deterring powerboaters when they are at their thickest.
Good kayak and canoe loop routes are possible by linking Blaquiere Point at the end of the Mitkof Highway (AK 7) with the town of Petersburg by water. The National Forest Service has a number of recommended routes, but the best dips into the Stikine Valley and LeConte Bay, offering a good, several-day journey. Flightseeing and glacier drop-offs are possible. See the appendix for outfitters and rental agencies.