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Russian explorers discovered Kodiak Island in 1763, and the city of Kodiak served as Alaska's first capital until 1804, when the government was moved to Sitka. Situated as it is in the northwestern Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak has been subjected to several natural disasters. In 1912 a volcanic eruption on the nearby Alaska Peninsula covered the town site in knee-deep drifts of ash and pumice. The 1964 earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the island's large fishing fleet and smashed Kodiak's low-lying downtown area.
Today commercial fishing is king in Kodiak. Despite its small population—about 13,500 people scattered among the several islands in the Kodiak group—the city is among the busiest fishing ports in the United States. The harbor is also an important supply point for small communities on the Aleutian Islands and the Alaska Peninsula.
Visitors to the island tend to follow one of two agendas: either immediately fly out to a remote lodge for fishing, kayaking, or bear viewing; or stay in town and access whatever pursuits they can reach from the limited road system. If the former is too pricey an option, consider combining the two: driving the road system to see what can be seen inexpensively, then adding a fly-out or charter-boat excursion to a remote lodge or wilderness access point.
Floatplane and boat charters are available from Kodiak to numerous remote attractions. Chief among these areas is the 1.6-million-acre Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, lying partly on Kodiak Island and partly on Afognak Island to the north, where spotting the enormous Kodiak brown bears is the main goal of a trip. Seeing the bears, which weigh a pound at birth but up to 1,500 pounds when fully grown, is worth the trip to this rugged country. The bears are spotted easily in July and August, feeding along salmon-spawning streams. Chartered flightseeing trips go to the area, and exaggerated tales of encounters with these impressive beasts are frequently heard.
Kodiak at a Glance
Sports and Outdoors
Elsewhere in Kenai Peninsula
- Cooper Landing
- Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Park
- Kenai and Soldotna
- Kenai Fjords National Park
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