Tongass National Forest, National Geographic Magazine: Beach Party On Prince of Wales Island

Locals gather for food and friendship at an informal party on Sandy Beach north of Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska’s Southeast.

Prince of Wales Island includes the main island and hundreds of adjacent islands—a total of more than 2,600 square miles with 990 miles of coastline and countless bays waiting to be explored. Its 990-mile coastline has numerous bays, coves, inlets, and points.

The landscape is characterized by steep, forested mountains and deep U-shaped valleys, streams, lakes, saltwater straits, and bays that were carved by the glacial ice that once covered the entire area. The spruce-hemlock forest covered land is full of muskegs, or bogs. Most of the mountains on the island are 2,000 to 3,000 feet tall.

Native people have called this island home for at least 8,000 years. Many of today’s island residents have ties to these early inhabitants.

The island is only accessible by small aircraft or by boat.

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