How large are the National Forests of Alaska?

The Tongass is nearly 17 million acres and the Chugach is 5.4 million acres, making them the 1st and 2nd largest forests in the national forest system.

Do I need a permit to hike or camp on the Chugach and Tongass National Forests?

No permits are required. There are a few places where camping is restricted, such as developed recreation sites or managed wildlife viewing sites.

Where are the Forest Service cabins in Alaska and where can I rent them?

There are 150 cabins on the Tongass and 41 on the Chugach. There are located on beaches, lakes, rivers, alpine meadows and valleys. They are rustic, without running water and electricity, and offer solitude, scenery, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Visit www.recreation.gov or calling 1-877-444-6777 (outside the U.S. 518-885-3639).

What is the weather like in Alaska?

The Tongass is a big place so the average temperature can vary widely from town to town, but December temps range from 27 to 40 degrees and July temps run from low to high 60s. Southeast Alaska is also part of a coastal rainforest and rain averages from 29” to more than 200” in different parts of this vast forest. Chugach temperatures average 21 degrees F in December and 65 degrees in July. Southcentral has precipitation rates from 3” - 60”—not including snowfall.

Is it true that the sun never sets in the summer or rises in the winter?

Not quite. The Chugach enjoys more than 19 hours of daylight at the height of summer, while the Tongass has a mere 18! In the depths of winter the Tongass days are between 6-7 hours and winter days on the Chugach are around 5.5 hours.

How many miles of coastline in Alaska?

More than 33,000 miles.

How many glaciers are there in Alaska?

More than 5,000.

Why is glacial ice blue?

Sunlight, or full spectrum light is absorbed by glacier ices, except for blue-it is reflected and makes the ice look blue. 

Chugach Facts

  • Nearly 500,000 people visit the Chugach for recreation each year.
  • Near Anchorage, the 5.6 million acre Chugach National Forest is the second largest national forest in the nation. One-third of this majestic and rugged land is rock and moving ice.
  • The Chugach emphasizes backcountry and developed recreation and fish and wildlife habitat management.
  • The 700,000-acre delta of the Copper River is a unique wetlands ecosystem and the largest contiguous wetland on the western coast of the United States.
  • On the far eastern boundary of the Chugach National Forest is the remote Kayak Island. This island is where George Wilhelm Steller, a naturalist traveling with Vitus Bering, became the first European to set foot on what is now Alaska more than 250 years ago.
  • There are more than 40 public-use cabins, 200 plus miles of forest trails, and 15 developed campgrounds with over 400 campsites.
  • The Chugach has been continually inhabited by Alaska Native people for more than 10,000 years.
  • There are more than two million acres of backcountry open for camping where no permit is required.
  • The Chugach’s three main regions all provide world-class habitat and outstanding recreational and economic opportunities:
  1. The Copper River Delta, described by biologists as one of the most important shorebird habitats in the world, hosts over 16 million birds every year in addition to its world-famous Copper River Red salmon.
  2. Prince William Sound entices visitors to explore its 3,500 miles of spectacular coastline by floatplane, kayak, sailboat, fishing vessel, or ferry.
  3. The Kenai Peninsula offers the chance to land a 50-pound kind salmon, and in addition to the rest of the forest, the ability for families to earn long-term livelihoods through sustainable Alaska-owned businesses.

Tongass Facts

  • More than 2,300,000 people visit the Tongass for recreation each year.
  • The longest cave system in Alaska is located in the Tongass—El Capitan Cave on northern Prince of Wales Island.
  • The Tongass boasts the largest tidewater glacier in the world—Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat, at 6 miles wide.
  • At nearly 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in our country—about the same size as West Virginia.
  • 35% (5.9 million acres) of the Tongass is congressionally-designated Wilderness—to be managed as Wilderness in perpetuity for all current and future generations of Americans.
  • There are more brown bears on one island (Admiralty) within the Tongass than there are in the entire lower 48 states combined.
  • Old growth trees on the Tongass range from about 200-700 years old.
  • The Forest also has the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America—LeConte Glacier between Wrangell and Petersburg.
  • The Tongass National Forest is unique in the national forest system—there are no threatened or endangered species on the forest.
  • 92% of the Tongass is protected from roaded development.
  • Close to 70% of old growth on the Tongass is protected in reserves, and will never be eligible for harvest.
  • Native Alaskans in Southeast Alaska are mainly Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.
  • Native Alaskans are among the more than 70,000 people who live in Southeast Alaska and depend upon the natural resources from the forest.

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