Kuiu Island Wilderness Areas
Kuiu Island boasts two Federally designated Wilderness Areas and four others within a 50-mile radius of the lighthouse. They are the Kuiu Wilderness, Tebenkof Bay Wilderness, Coronation Island, Warren Island, Hazy Islands, and South Baranof Wilderness.
The blown up map of southern Kuiu Island on the left depicts the Kuiu Wilderness and Tebenkof Bay Wilderness Areas as one, shown in green. Coronation Island, directly south of the Cape Decision Lighthouse, is not shown on this map but is shown on a nautical chart below. It easily reached from Cape Decision as it is only several miles away.
Descriptions of these three wilderness areas can be found below.
KUIU ISLAND WILDERNESS AREA
The United States Congress designated the Kuiu Wilderness Area in 1990, encompassing some 60,581 acres. Kuiu Wilderness extends across the island, reaching Chatham Strait on the west and Sumner Strait on the east. The northern boundary of Kuiu Wilderness is Tebenkof Bay Wilderness. Three large bays are surrounded by the wilderness: Port Malmesbury, Port Beauclerc, and part of Affleck Canal. The area also includes many small islands and bays that are characteristic of the irregular coastline. The bays, coves, and canals offer safe anchorage and shelter to boaters. Land in the Kuiu Wilderness ranges from estuaries to subalpine zones on peaks that rise to over 2,000 feet. Overall, the wilderness area is undeveloped with no cabins or other facilities. The Affleck Canal Portage crosses the spruce and hemlock forested wilderness from Affleck Canal to Petrof Bay in Tebenkof Bay. The trail is lightly brushed to maintain the wilderness character and may be difficult to see.
Black bears, wolves, small furbearers such as beaver, marten, and mink, and marine mammals such as Stellers sea lions, harbor seals, and humpback whales share this temperate, wet maritime area with sea, shore, and land birds. The Kuiu Wilderness is also known for its high concentration of sea otters, bears and wolves. Fishing boats are common sights in the bays of Kuiu Island.
TEBENKOF WILDERNESS AREA
The United States Congress designated the Tebenkof Bay Wilderness Area in 1980 and it now has a total of 66,812 acres. Located on Kuiu Island, this wilderness shares a boundary with the Kuiu Wilderness and the two are managed practically as one. The most prominent feature of Tebenkof Bay Wilderness is a complex system of bays, islands, and coves. The wilderness encompasses the entire Tebenkof Bay watershed. Muskeg bogs, small lakes, and many small creeks are scattered throughout the area. Coastal spruce and hemlock rise from sea level to alpine levels above 2,000 feet. Sea, shore, and land birds, including trumpeter swans, inhabit and migrate through the area. Black bears, wolves, and small furbearing animals such as beaver, marten, and mink are common in the interior. Marine mammals such as Steller's sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters are often seen from shore. Coho, sockeye, pink, and chum salmon; cutthroat, rainbow and steelhead trout; and Dolly Varden char inhabit the lakes and streams. Fishing vessels harvest dungeness and tanner crabs, shrimp, herring, and halibut in the waters offshore. Tebenkof Bay has a history of red tide, the algae bloom that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), so clams, oysters, and other bivalves should not be eaten from Tebenkof Bay.
Tlingít Natives once occupied this area and signs of their use may still be seen. They trapped, camped, hunted, fished, gathered seaweed, and gardened throughout the area. Ancient and historic artifacts should be left where they are found and reported to Forest Service archeologists. The Tlingít people used portage routes on Kuiu Island to escape bad weather and avoid dangerous passages. They used the Alecks Creek Portage from Elena Bay to No Name Bay. The Forest Service maintains this difficult portage as a lightly brushed wilderness portage today. You'll find no trails or facilities of any kind, but wilderness camping is allowed although Leave No Trace methods should be used. Human visitors are few. Tebenkof Bay Wilderness provides ample opportunity for isolated, undeveloped forms of recreation.
CORONATION ISLAND WILDERNESS AREA
The United States Congress designated the Coronation Island Wilderness in 1980 and it now has a total of 19,232 acres. All of the wilderness is in Alaska and is managed by the Forest Service. Rising to almost 2,000 forested feet above the sea, Coronation Island stands off the west coast of Prince of Wales Island, south of Kuiu Island and north of Noyes Island. Stands of tall Sitka spruce and western hemlock dominate the island and extend to the shoreline, which in places falls away at sheer cliffs. Understory vegetation is lush and varied. The Henyakwan Tlingit traditionally used Coronation Island, and would often camp in Egg Harbor while awaiting fair weather to travel out to the Hazy Islands, where they would gather bird eggs. A lead mine operated on the west shore of Egg Harbor from the early 1900s until the late 1960s. In addition to a healthy population of various seabird species, Coronation's inhabitants also include Sitka black-tailed deer and bald eagles. Sea otters, Stellar's sea lions, harbor seals, and seasonal humpback whales are common sights off shore.
Strong prevailing winds from the open ocean and a steep, ragged coastline make the windward side of the island virtually inaccessible. On the leeward side you'll find some protected coves and beaches guarded by rocky shoals that make all approaches risky. Access is generally via floatplane or boat, and there are no developed trails or facilities on the island. Wilderness camping is unrestricted. Coronation Island receives few human visitors and is a prime example of Alaskan Wilderness.