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The Kodiak Island Archipelago is a large group of islands about 30 miles from the Alaska Peninsula and 158 miles across the Gulf of Alaska from Homer, Alaska and about a 1 hour flight from Anchorage due south. The archipelago is about 177 miles long and encompasses nearly 5,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.
At 3,588 square miles, Kodiak Island itself is the largest island in the group and the second largest island in the United States. Only the big island of Hawaii is larger. The City of Kodiak sits on the northeastern tip of the island. There are six other small villages scattered on the island.
The archipelago is a continuation of the Kenai Mountain Range, which begins on the Kenai Peninsula, 90 miles to the north. Lying in the Aleutian Trench, the archipelago has been strongly influenced by both volcanic and seismic activity along the “chain of fire.”
Approximately fifteen thousand years ago, most of the islands were covered by glaciers that scored and carved the landscape. Jagged peaks, fjord-like bays and wide U-shaped valleys were left by the glacial retreat seperating Kodiak Island from the Alaska Peninsula.
Nature’s handiwork created a place of spectacular scenic beauty and a wilderness ideally suited for land, sea and marine life. Lush vegetation carpets the terrain, giving the Emerald Isle its name.
Aluitiiq people were Kodiak’s first inhabitants. Anthropologists classify the Alutiiq as an Eskimo people, as their culture and language are most closely related to those of the Yup’ik and Inupiaq. In prehistoric times, the Alutiiq shared many items of technology with other northern coastal peoples. They built sod houses which were lit by stone oil lamps. They hunted sea mammals with harpoons from skin covered kayaks. They wore waterproof clothing stitched from seal intestines, beach grass, and sinew. Alutiiq is one of six Eskimo languages.
The late 1700s brought new interest to Kodiak Island, Alaska. The main interest in Kodiak Island for the Russians was for the sea otter pelt trade. Choosing a secluded harbor on Kodiak’s southeast side near present day Old Harbor (just 26 miles south of Kodiak Adventures Lodge) which they named Three Saints Bay. After many years the sea otter population diminished and the Russians lost interest in Kodiak Island. The most lasting legacy of the Russian era is the Russian Orthodox religion. With its distinctive blue cupolas, the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral is a prominent fixture in downtown Kodiak. It houses the reliquary of St. Herman, who was canonized at the church in 1970. Russians occupied Kodiak until 1867 when Alaska was sold to the United States. The U.S. purchased Alaska for $7.2 million or about two cents per acre. Kodiak’s economy shifted from the fur trade to fisheries. Salmon became the economic staple, and salteries and canneries dotted the islands by the 1890s. There are still remnants of old canneries and some working canneries on Kodiak Island. The Kadiak Cannery in Kiliuda bay was destroyed in the 1964 tsunami but much of the old equipment is still scattered about. Commercial and charter fishing along with tourism today remains the economic mainstay of Kodiak.
Total population of Kodiak Island is approx. 14,000 with 6457 living in Kodiak City.
Kodiak Island is the home of the largest Coast Gaurd base in the U.S. with 382 personnel. The Coast gaurd patrols much of the western Alaskan coastline including the Bering Sea, ecompassing 4 million sq. miles of area with 15 different aircraft.
The bear population is estimated at 3500 – 4000. Almost 1 bear per Sq mile.