Wrangell is one of the oldest non-Native settlements in Alaska. In 1811 the Russians began fur trading with area Tlingits and built a stockade named Redoubt St. Dionysius in 1834. The island was named for Ferdinand Von Wrangel, manager of the Russian-American Co. around 1830. The British Hudson Bay Co. leased the fort in 1840 and named the stockade Fort Stikine. A large Stikine Indian village, known as Kotzlitzna, was located 13 miles south of the fort. The Tlingits claimed their own ancient trade rights to the Stikine River and protested when the Hudson Bay Co. began to use their trade routes, but two epidemics of smallpox, in 1836 and 1840, reduced the Tlingit population by half. The fort was abandoned in 1849 when furs were depleted. The fort remained under the British flag until Alaska's purchase by the U.S. in 1867. In 1868 a U.S. military post called Fort Wrangell was established and named for the island. The community continued to grow as an outfitter for gold prospectors, especially in 1861, 1874-77, and 1897. Riotous activity filled gambling halls, dance halls, and the streets. Thousands of miners traveled up the Stikine River into the Cassiar District of British Columbia during 1874 and to the Klondike in 1897. Glacier Packing Co. began operating in Wrangell in 1889. The Wilson & Sylvester Sawmill provided packing boxes for canneries and lumber for construction. The city was incorporated in 1903. By 1916, fishing and forest products had become the primary industries -- four canneries and a cold storage plant were constructed by the late 1920s. In the 1930s, cold packing of crab and shrimp was occurring. Abundant spruce and hemlock resources have helped to expand the lumber and wood products industry. The Alaska Pulp sawmill, Wrangell's largest employer, closed in late 1994 but was reopened on a smaller scale in 1998 by Silver Bay Logging. The city was dissolved and reincorporated as the City and Borough of Wrangell on May 1, 2008.
Wrangell's economy is based on commercial fishing, tourism, and timber from the Tongass National Forest. Fishing and fish processing are an important segment of the economy. In 2009, 226 residents held commercial fishing permits. Dive fisheries are also under development -- 60 divers harvest sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and geoducks. Wrangell offers a 150-ton marine travel lift and adjacent boat yard, which have increased marine-related support industries. There is a deep-water port, which is able to cater to large cruise ships. Stikine River and the surrounding area attract independent travelers for fishing, glacier viewing, and kayaking adventure tours. Anan Wildlife Observatory is famous for black and brown bear viewing.
Location & Climate
The City and Borough of Wrangell is located on the northwest tip of Wrangell Island, 155 miles south of Juneau and 89 miles northwest of Ketchikan. It is near the mouth of the Stikine River, a historic trade route to the Canadian Interior. It lies at approximately 56.470830 North Latitude and -132.376670 West Longitude. (Sec. 25, T062S, R083E, Copper River Meridian.) Wrangell is located in the Wrangell Recording District. The area encompasses 2,582.0 sq. miles of land and 883.0 sq. miles of water. Wrangell is in the maritime climatic zone and experiences cool summers, mild winters, and year-round rainfall. Summer temperatures typically range from 42 to 64 °F; winter temperatures range from 21 to 44 °F. Average annual precipitation is 82 inches, with 64 inches of snowfall. Fog is common from September through December. *State of AK, DOT AMHS.
2,369 (US Census)
Unified Home Rule Borough originally incorporated as city in 1903. The city currently employs 14 lead staff and many support positions. Regular elections are held every 1st Tuesday of October. The City Council meets 2nd and 4th Tuesdays. The current city sales tax is 7%.
Wrangell Municipal Light & Power. Power source: hydro with diesel backup. Kilowatt capacity: 32,700. In November of 2010 the small commercial rate for 1,500kWh/month was $0.1160 with a $9.00 monthly service fee. (JEDC Asset Mapping Report)
Water & Sewer Utilities
Approximately 95% of households are fully plumbed. Two surface reservoirs south of town supply 64 million gallons of water, which is filtered, treated and piped to most households. Sewage receives secondary treatment at the Shoemaker Bay plant. About 20% of residences have individual septic tanks.
The City provides garbage collection service, a recycling facility, an incinerator and annual hazardous waste disposal events.
The State-owned 6,000' x 150' paved, lighted runway enables jet service. A seaplane base is adjacent to the runway. The marine facilities include three breakwaters, deep draft dock, State ferry terminal, three boat harbors with 650 slips, over 1,700 linier feet of transient moorage., and 2 boat launches.
Accessible via major airline, small air & water craft, and State-owned Alaska Marine Highway System.
Wrangell City School District. Within the district, there are three schools: Evergreen Elementary K-5, Stikine Middle School 6-8, and Wrangell High School 9-12. Enrollment in the 2010-11 school year was 312. Student-teacher ratio: 13.6:1.
Wrangell Medical Center and LTC, TideLine Clinic (private), Wrangell Public Health Center, Wrangell Volunteer Fire Dept./Rescue. The medical center is a qualified Acute Care and Long Term Care facility. Emergency service is provided by 911 Telephone Service and volunteers.
Federally Recognized Tribe
Wrangell Cooperative Association. (Village Council; Bureau Of Indian Affairs-Recognized Indian Reorganization Act Council)
Other Community Buildings
Salvation Army Community Building, Boys and Girls Club, City Hall, American Legion Hall, Nolan Civic Center, Senior Center, Wrangell Recreation Facilities, Wrangell Museum, City Public Library, School Libraries, Community Center.
Community Economic Development Projects
page last updated 6/27/12