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Wrangell (Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw)
Borough, City
Wrangell City Dock
Official name: City and Borough of Wrangell
Country  United States
State  Alaska
Elevation 69 ft (21 m)
Coordinates 56°28′17″N 132°22′57″W / 56.47139°N 132.3825°W / 56.47139; -132.3825
Area 70.84 sq mi (183 km2)
 - land 45.28 sq mi (117 km2)
 - water 25.57 sq mi (66 km2)
Population 2,308 (2000)
Density 51 /sq mi (20 /km2)
Founded 1834 (1834) (Russian)
 - English 1839
 - American 1867
 - Incorporated June 1, 2008
Mayor Donald McConachie, Sr.
Timezone AKST (UTC-9)
 - summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-86380
GNIS feature ID 1415843
Location of Wrangell within Alaska
Location of Alaska in the United States
Wikimedia Commons: Wrangell, Alaska
Totem poles at the Shakes house

Wrangell is a city and borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. At the 2000 census the population was 2,308. Its Tlingit name is Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw, and the Tlingit people residing in the Wrangell area call themselves the Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw Ḵwáan, or alternately the Shtaxʼhéen Ḵwáan after the nearby Stikine River. Wrangell was part of the former Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area until its incorporation as a city-and-borough on June 1, 2008. The central (urban) part of Wrangell is located at 56°27′23″N 132°22′40″W / 56.45639°N 132.37778°W / 56.45639; -132.37778, in the northwest corner of Wrangell Island, whereas the borough now encompasses the entire eastern half of the former Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area, in addition to the area around Meyers Chuck, which was formerly in the Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan Census Area.[1]



Wrangell is one of the oldest non-Native settlements in Alaska, and has become the primary settlement of the Stikine Tlingit. According to Naanyaa.aayí clan traditions, Tlingit people migrated down the Stikine River during a time when the river still flowed underneath glaciers. The population slowly moved down the river, settling in different locations such as Tlákw.aan "Ancient Village", Sʼiknáx̱ "Across from the Grass", Shaal.aan "Fish Trap Town", Xakw.aan "Sandbar Village", and Kayáash "Platform". Later settlements on the coast included Chʼuxʼáasʼaan "Waterfall Town" (now Mill Creek), Ḵeishangita.aan "Red Alder Head Village" (site of the Wrangell Institute at Shoemaker Bay), Kʼaatsʼḵu Noow "Among the Sharps Fort" (now Anita Bay), An.áan "Village that Rests" (now Anan Bear Viewing Area), and many others. The numerous petroglyphs found at Petroglyph Beach just north of Wrangell, as well as those scattered on the beaches of the many islands in the vicinity, attest to the long Tlingit inhabitation of the area.

The salt water inlet that is now Wrangell Harbor was traditionally called Ḵaachx̱ana.áakʼw, literally "Ḵaachx̱án’s little lake". Before the harbor mouth was dredged and cleared in the late 19th century, the mouth of this inlet would often go dry at low tide, leading towards its appellation as a "lake". The man Ḵaachx̱án was from the village variously known as Ḵaalchʼalʼaan (Kotzlitzan) or Chʼaalʼít.aan meaning "Willow House Village", or sometimes Shaax̱ít.aan meaning "Driftwood House Village"; this village site today is known as "Old Town" or "Old Wrangell" (located at 56°12′28″N 132°16′22″W / 56.20778°N 132.27278°W / 56.20778; -132.27278). Ḵaachx̱án was supposedly something of a hermit who preferred living away from his relatives, and dwelled in a smokehouse located on the rear shore of the lake which was named after him.


19th Century

In 1811, the Russians began fur trading with area Tlingit at the site of present-day Wrangell. In 1834, Baron Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, then head of Russian government interests in Russian America, ordered a stockade built near the Tlingit Naanyaa.aayí clan house of Chief Shakes called Shéiksh Hídi. This house was located about 13 miles (21 km) north of Old Wrangell, on a small island in the middle of what is today Wrangell Harbor. The stockade, named Redoubt Saint Dionysius (Редутъ Санктъ Дионѵсіусъ), was founded at the location of present-day Wrangell and stood near the end of the small peninsula that forms the northeastern side of the mouth of the harbor.

The British Hudson's Bay Company leased the fort in 1839 and named the stockade Fort Stikine. The Tlingits had used the Stikine River as a trade route to the interior since ancient times and they protested when the Hudson's Bay Company began to use their trade routes. However, two epidemics of smallpox in 1836 and 1840 reduced the Tlingit population in the area by half and silenced most of the protest. The fort was abandoned in 1849 after the area’s sea otter and beaver stocks were depleted. Fort Stikine remained under British rule until Alaska's purchase by the United States in 1867.

In 1868, a U.S. military post called Fort Wrangell was built at the site, and it remained active until 1877. The community around the post continued to grow through commerce with gold prospectors in the gold rushes of 1861, 1874–77, and 1897. As in Skagway, many gambling halls, dance halls, and bars were built. Thousands of miners traveled up the Stikine River into the Cassiar District of British Columbia during 1874, and again to the Klondike in 1897.

In 1877 the first Presbyterian church in Alaska, indeed the first Protestant church of any kind in Alaska, was founded near its current location at 220 Church Street. Reverend S. Hall Young was a colleague of Sheldon Jackson who was assigned to the Wrangell mission and arrived on July 10, 1878.[2] He labored extensively among both miners and Tlingits, establishing the Fort Wrangell Tlingit Industrial School to teach young Tlingit men various American trades such as printing, boatbuilding, and construction. This institution was a parallel to Sheldon Jackson’s Sitka Industrial Training School that became Sheldon Jackson College, and was the nucleus of the later Wrangell Institute which was a boarding school for Alaska Natives through the mid 20th century.

S. Hall Young was also a friend and companion of naturalist John Muir, who was resident in Wrangell in 1879 and 1880.[3][4] Muir and Young traveled up the Stikine River, as well as to Kake, Glacier Bay, and elsewhere in Southeast Alaska. Young and Muir were accompanied by two Stikine noblemen, Tʼaawyaat ("Toyatte", lit. "Long Feather"), and Kaadaashaan ("Kadachan"), as well as a young man named Sitka Charley who was their interpreter in Chinook Jargon and English.

Having been under the jurisdiction of the Russians, the British, and the Americans, as well as having originally been Tlingit territory, Wrangell has the unique status of being the only Alaskan city to have been governed under four "flags".

20th Century

Ocean view from the Wrangell coastline

Fish traps were constructed in the late 1890s on the nearby mouth of the Stikine River and in the Zimovia Strait. These contributed to the growth of the fishing and fish canning industries in Wrangell, which provided much of the economic support for the town before the rise of logging in the 1950s. The fish traps caused severe damage to the Stikine River salmon runs, and had deleterious effects on salmon fishing in the region. All fish traps in Alaska were decommissioned by the new government after statehood, however the fishing industry remained strong and continues to be the primary occupation of many residents.

The weekly newspaper The Wrangell Sentinel was founded in 1902, and printed its first issue on November 2 of that year. The newspaper remains in publication with only a few short periods of inactivity, and hence this newspaper is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Alaska.

The renowned Bear Totem Store, built in the 1920s by Walter Waters, housed innumerable examples of Tlingit arts and crafts, as well as a number of irreplaceable totem poles. Waters began his business career carrying mail by boat from Wrangell to Sulzer. During this period, he traveled throughout southeast Alaska as a fur buyer. While on business travels, Waters began to acquire Indian artifacts and make valuable contacts with Indian artisans. These contacts eventually enabled him to open his curio shop, The Bear Totem Store.

A severe fire in the early 1950s burned much of the downtown area, destroying the Bear Totem Store and most of its contents. Very few historic buildings remained after the fire. This disaster changed the face of Wrangell into what it is today.

Logging, fishing and tourism are the current mainstays of the Wrangell area economy. One of the last two major sawmills in southeast Alaska is operated by the Silver Bay Logging Company just south of the city proper.

The community has always been a major home to the Tlingit Kiks.ádi and Naanyaa.aayí clans, as well as the only home of the Kayaashkiditaan, Sʼiknax̱.ádi, X̱ookʼeidí, Kaasx̱ʼagweidí, and Taalḵweidí clans.[5] Chief Shakes Tribal House, which is known in Tlingit as Shéiksh Hídi "Shakes House", is a replica of traditional Tlingit houses and was constructed in the 1930s using traditional knowledge and methods. It still stands at the original location of Shakes House on a small island called Shakes Island which sits inside of Wrangell harbor. Today the Wrangell Cooperative Association, a Tlingit IRA council and the federally recognized tribe for the area, maintains Shakes Island and the House as well as Totem Park near the city center.

21st Century

Wrangell downtown

In an election held on May 6, 2008, to decide whether to incorporate, 63.99% of the votes were in favor of incorporation.[6] On June 1, 2008, Wrangell was incorporated as "The City and Borough of Wrangell."[7][8]


Wrangell is located on the northern tip of Wrangell Island, an island in the Alaska Panhandle. It is 155 miles (250 km) south of the Alaskan capital of Juneau. It is across the narrow Zimovia Strait from the mouth of the Stikine River on the Alaska mainland. The town is named after the island, which was named after Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, a Russian explorer and the administrator of the Russian-American Company from 1840 to 1849.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 183.5 square kilometers (70.8 sq mi). 117.3 km2 (45.3 sq mi) of it is land and 66.2 km2 (25.6 sq mi) of it (36.10%) is water.

National protected areas


Fishing boat at Wrangell dock

The primary economic driver of the city is fishing. There was a large wood processing factory in Wrangell but that closed down some time ago.


As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 2,308 people, 907 households, and 623 families residing in the city. The population density was 51.0 people per square mile (19.7/km²). There were 1,092 housing units at an average density of 24.1/sq mi (9.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 1696 White, 3 Black or African American, 358 Native American, 15 Asian, 3 Pacific Islander, 8 from other races, and 9.75% from two or more races. 23 of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 907 households out of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 26.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.4% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 26.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 106.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,250, and the median income for a family was $54,167. Males had a median income of $43,846 versus $29,205 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,851. About 7.3% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.0% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.

Population of Wrangell[10]
Year Population
1920 800
1930 900
1940 1,200
1960 1,300
1970 2,000
1980 2,200
1990 2,500
2000 2,308


Wrangell has a number of public schools. They are:



The primary library is the Irene Ingle Public Library.


The primary radio located in Wrangell is KSTK "Stikine River Radio."


Alaska Marine Highway ferry MV Matanuska in Wrangell

Being located on Wrangell island, Wrangell has two basics forms of transportation: ferry and airplane.


The Alaska Marine Highway serves Wrangell on its Inside Passage route with both northbound and southbound stops that occur regularly that link it to the rest of Southeast Alaska.[11]

Wrangell is also a stop on the Summer Monday, Friday, & Saturday runs of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority's M/V Stikine in its round-trip run which originates in Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island, continues on to Wrangell, then Petersburg, and then Wrangell, before returning home to Coffman Cove.[12]


Passengers entering Alaska Airlines airplane at Wrangell Airport

Wrangell also receives scheduled commercial jet service from Alaska Airlines at the Wrangell Airport.


  1. ^ Map: Alaska Department of Labor
  2. ^ Young, S. Hall. 1927. Hall Young of Alaska. Fleming Revell.
  3. ^ Muir, John. 1909. Stickeen: An adventure with a dog and a glacier. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  4. ^ Muir, John. 1915. Travels in Alaska. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. ^ "Traditional Tlingit Map and Tribal List". Tlingit Readers, Inc.. Retrieved 2009-06-21.  
  6. ^ "2008 Wrangel Incorporation Election: May 6, 2008: Official Results". Division of Elections. State of Alaska. May 30, 2008.  
  7. ^ "Wrangell government website". Retrieved 2008-07-20.  
  8. ^ "Wrangell Certificate of Incorporation". Retrieved 2009-02-06.  
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "State of Alaska ferries". Alaska Marine Highway System. http://WWW.DoT.State.AK.US/amhs/.  
  12. ^ "Northern Route Schedule". Inter-Island Ferry Authority. http://WWW.InterIslandFerry.Com/schednorth.html.  

Simple English

Wrangell, Alaska
—  City  —

Wrangell, Alaska
Location of Wrangell in the state of Alaska, USA
Coordinates: 56°27′23″N 132°22′40″W / 56.45639°N 132.37778°W / 56.45639; -132.37778
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Wrangell-Petersburg
 - Total 70.8 sq mi (183.5 km2)
 - Land 45.3 sq mi (117.3 km2)
 - Water 25.6 sq mi (66.2 km2)
Elevation 69 ft (21 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 2,308
 Density 51.0/sq mi (19.7/km2)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC−9)
 - Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC−8)
Area code(s) 907
FIPS code 02-86380
GNIS feature ID 1415843

Wrangell is a city in Alaska.


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