Petersburg, Mitkof Island

Petersburg, Mitkof Island

by | Dec 29, 2018

Petersburg is a community on the north end of Mitkof Island, at the north entrance to Wrangell Narrows, and about 32 miles (52 km) northwest of Wrangell, Alaska. Petersburg was founded by Scandinavians and is known as the “Little Norway” of Alaska.

Remnants of fish traps and petroglyphs provide evidence for early cultures using this area of Mitkof Island for well over a 1,000 years, and Tlingits from Kupreanof Island had a summer fish camp here. The first European to sight the island was James Johnstone in 1793, one of Captain George Vancouver’s officers during the 1791-95 expedition. The name was first published in 1848 on a Russian Hydrographic Department chart as “Ostrov Mitkova” for an Admiral Prokofy Mitkov. Mitkof Island is largely covered by low mountains and muskeg wetlands. The western side of the island borders Wrangell Narrows that provides a somewhat protected waterway for boats traveling the Inside Passage.

The town grew up around a salmon cannery and a sawmill built in 1897-99 by Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant. The settlement was named Petersburg after him, and it flourished as a fishing port. Icebergs from the nearby LeConte Glacier provided a source of ice for cooling fish. Commercial fishing is still the dominant industry of Petersburg’s economy. The main producers are the limit seiners, so-called for the 58 feet (17.7 m) maximum length. These vessels catch salmon, halibut, black cod, king crab, tanner crab, and herring. Many travel west to trawl, longline, and pot cod in the western Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. A large contingent from Petersburg also goes to Bristol Bay each year to fish at Naknek, Dillingham and King Salmon. Locally, there is also a vibrant salmon troll and gillnet fleet, as well as Dungeness crab and dive fisheries. Read more here and here. Explore more of Petersburg and Mitkof Island here:

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