Wrangell, Alaska is hosting their annual Bearfest on July 27-31. It is a celebration of all things Bear. Everything from symposiums to art and photography workshops; as well as hikes and a marathon. Wrangell, Alaska is the place to be for all Bear Lovers. There will also be some salmon tasting, of course.
Wrangell is located in Southeast Alaska in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, and sits at the mouth of the Stikine River. The population of Wrangell Island was 2400 in 2000. Like the entire Southeast, Wrangell is a fishing paradise.
Wildlife in the Tongass include brown, black and the elusive glacier bear, as well as mountain goats, sitka black tailed deer, wolves and bald eagles. Orcas and humpback whales are often seen swimming the straits.
Alaska Airlines services Wrangell daily, weather permitting. The (mostly decimated) Alaska Marine Highway System also services Wrangell, at least in theory.
The state of Alaska currently has over 225 wildfires burning within its borders and over 1000 firefighters battling the blazes. So far this fire season, over 2 million acres have burned, which is the earliest date to hit that milestone in the past two decades.
A red flag warning has been in effect throughout Interior Alaska, and fireworks were banned over the weekend. The Borough implemented a $1000 fine for anyone caught setting off fireworks, which did make for a relatively quiet 4th of July.
Nature ignored the fines however, as we have had a very active few days of lightning. Between June 28 and July 4th, the state had 25,000 strikes, and Tuesday alone saw another 4500 lightning strikes, which started 13 new wildfires.
I have not seen the final numbers for June, but the month was expected to contend with the driest Junes on record statewide. Which is saying something, as it’s a pretty big state.
Most of the wildfires burning in Alaska right now are near the coast, but smoke from those fires have finally made its way into Interior Alaska. The sun was a bright orange pumpkin on Sunday morning.
The largest wildfire right now is the East Fork Fire near the community of St Marys. At 122,000 acres burned, it is the largest tundra fire since 2007, and the second largest in the past 40 years. St Marys is being evacuated, and the fire is now threatening other communities. The fire was started by lightning.
According to the BLM and Alaska Fire Service, Alaska has seen 314,057 acres burned so far this fire season. That is particularly note worthy, since it is already more than the entire season in 2020 and 2021.
As for the Interior, Fairbanks has now gone 25 days without measurable rainfall. It is a rare summer dry streak, as we have only seen two years with more: 1947 (28 days) and 1957 (26 days).
In the 99 years of record keeping within Denali National Park, the winter of 2021-22 was the record setter. 176 inches of snow fell at park headquarters this past winter, breaking the 174″ of 1970-71.
As of May 15, there were still 33″ of snow on the ground at the park’s headquarters, far above average for this late in the season.
It’s been a tough winter for wildlife, particularly moose, who have had to fight the deep drifts. Both moose and bears have been traveling on the park road, so traffic has been limited past Sable Pass. Bicyclists normally can travel up & down the park road, but with the stressed wildlife, that will remain limited until the snow melts.
The shuttle bus will only be traveling as far as Pretty Rocks, due to the road collapse from the melting ice formation.
The park’s visitor center will be open for the first time since 2019, and the park’s sled dog kennel will also be open for tours. 2022 is the 100th anniversary for the Denali Park Sled Dog Kennel.
A wildfire started up on Round Island out in the Aleutians. The fire was started by staff from a Fish & Game campsite, when they used a burn barrel. The dry grass caught quickly, and spread from there. The Alaska Division of Forestry sent an air tanker and six smoke jumpers from Fairbanks to contain the blaze. By the time the fire was contained, approximately 40 acres of the 720 acre island had burned.
Round Island is one of four major pull out locations for Pacific walrus in Alaska, and the island is a part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary. As many as 14,000 male walruses haul out on Round Island in a given day.
Like Brooks Falls, the folks at explore.org have a Walrus Cam on Round Island. The soothing sound of waves can be experienced, with the constant baritone grunts of the male walruses jockeying for the most comfortable spot on the beach.