"My Time on 'the Rock'" Kodiak Island by mrclay2000

Kodiak Island Travel Guide: 97 reviews and 131 photos

Old Myths Magnified

Fundamentally, Kodiak Island is a typical island for the U.S. possessions in the Pacific, second in size only to the big island of Hawaii. At 100 miles long and 60 wide, its area is just under 3,600 square miles. On this immense domain, the entire global population could stand comfortably with four square feet of space for each man, woman and child, and the island would still have enough left for four other such global populations. On the other hand, the island couldn't stomach the congestion, and the island itself wouldn't offer comfortable standing room except to a small fraction.

Called "Alaska's Emerald Isle" by the island's convention and visitor's bureau, and 'the Rock' by the local inhabitants, Kodiak Island receives almost 60 inches of rain a year, second only to Ketchikan on the Alaskan panhandle. In this type of climate, tropical vegetation dominates the island in the same manner as that found in Hawaii. Owing to the 1912 Novarupta eruption that left layers of dust and millions of Sitka spruce seeds on the island, the northern third enjoys dense forestation, while the vegetation remains in control in the southern majority. In the summer, especially June and September, the constant rainfall means that grasses are shoulder-high. Cow parsnip (called pootschki by locals) is favored as "wild celery" by the island's wildlife, but its broad leaves -- up to 24 inches wide -- can cause a harmful skin irritant in direct sunlight. Despite heights of 5 and 6 feet, these plants can be easily knocked down by hikers, a fact counterpoised by alder and salmonberry. Sitka alder and the dozens of other varieties will impede direct travel in every ravine and on every hillside, and wherever marshy country exists (i.e. most of the lowlands), alder will find a stronghold. While trees essentially disappear in the southern two-thirds of this island, alder forms the main "timber." Alder and salmonberry are strong obstacles to hiking and foot travel everywhere outside of town and village, and the alternating hillsides and valleys will slow the strongest hikers to a mile an hour or less.

For all its intensity in the interior, Kodiak Island is a wonderful paradise to behold. Pierced on every shore by a cove, a bay or other inlet, the inhabitant's intimacy with the ocean is enforced, and the soothing effects on the eye are deep and magnificent. From the smoothness of local beaches, to the densest stands of Sitka spruce, to the intensity of green vegetation on every point of the compass, its moniker of "Emerald Isle" is well-deserved. Except for the hardwood forests of the Blue Ridge and perhaps Hawaii, there is arguably no greener region in the United States.

For all its natural beauty, Kodiak Island is moreover a place surrounded by mystery and legend. In the deeper recesses of the Wildlife Refuge that covers two-thirds of the island, and often even close to town, locals and visitors have long been aware of the giant brown bears that inhabit this island. Individuals up to 1,700 pounds have been spotted no more than 40 miles from town, but sightings are rare on the road system, and sightings themselves are tough to come by. One of only six native mammals to the island (along with the fox, the otter, the bat, the vole and the ermine), Kodiak's browns tend to reside in the impenetrable thickets of the interior, and are better spotted in the spring and fall when the vegetation is seasonably subdued. In marine life, the fishing here is just as legendary, and the island periodically entertains a growing list of luminaries who have come to cast and relax. Whether you see the fin of a killer whale in the Channel, or spot a brown bear in the interior, Kodiak is alive with the mystique of giant creatures. You need only listen to the lore of the docks to believe the one, or measure the paw prints in the loose sand to confirm the other.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Green and greener, full of wildlife and lore, and fun to explore
  • Cons:Intense vegetation, incessant rainfall, marshes and morasses
  • In a nutshell:A place of beauty and mystery, and rightfully preserving its legends
  • Intro Updated Nov 23, 2003
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Reviews (49)

Comments (14)

  • RickinDutch's Profile Photo
    Dec 15, 2005 at 2:47 PM

    You captured Kodiak's essence very well. Great photos! Welcome to my world :)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2004 at 6:56 AM

    Great page of this wonderful island ! Thanks for sharing. Seems, I should head northwest some day to explore this beautiful wildernes !

  • goingsolo's Profile Photo
    Sep 14, 2004 at 8:53 AM

    What, no bears??

  • Yubert's Profile Photo
    Apr 3, 2004 at 5:07 PM

    Is pitching a tent on a river bed a safe thing to do? What about the event of a flash flood?

  • Feb 22, 2004 at 6:23 PM

    Great accomodation tip!There's nothing like sleeping in the wilderness!Seems like we share the same criteria about camping conditions...Great pages too! I'll keep visiting them!

  • zrim's Profile Photo
    Nov 22, 2003 at 7:44 PM

    Kodiak is a place where men are men and bears are bears and man (even a stalwart fellow like mrclay) must give way if the bear has its sights on the salmonberries.

  • herzog63's Profile Photo
    Sep 16, 2003 at 12:08 AM

    It's been quite some time since I've eaten at the roads end!

  • annk's Profile Photo
    Sep 14, 2003 at 6:53 PM

    Excellent page on a beautiful & and unspoiled island. And much more appealing than the tourist-ridden, fine sand beaches of the popular destinations. Had to chuckle at your description of chewing on the ribeye.

  • SirRichard's Profile Photo
    Sep 10, 2003 at 2:17 AM

    Sleeping on a bed river would keep me awake all night waiting for the water coming, LOL but anyway I wouldn't sleep thinking on the approaching bears!! Gorgeous landscapes, thanx for sharing :-)) Congrats for the pics!

  • Helga67's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2003 at 1:01 PM

    Interesting page about such a beautiful island. it seems so unspoiled and wild. I only miss the pic of the brown bear ;-)


“I have no illusions. I lost them on my travels.”

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