Yakutat, Alaska

The City and Borough of Yakutat is a community of about 650 people on the Alaskan mainland where the Southeast panhandle meets the Gulf of Alaska.

Fishing is by far the largest industry in Yakutat, with fish processing and canning coming in second.

The borough has an area of about 9,400 square miles and the former city called Yakutat had an area of around 104 square miles.

General Background

Yakutat is the second-wettest city in the United States, receiving an average of 140 inches of rain and 150 inches of snow every year.

In 1992, Yakutat was incorporated as a borough (the Alaskan equivalent of a county) and is no longer considered a true city by the state of Alaska.

The Yakutat Borough is roughly six times the size of Rhode Island but is the least populated of Alaska’s 16 boroughs and is actually the ninth-least populated county in the United States.

The only other populated settlement in the borough is Icy Bay, which is a popular spot for kayakers and is accessible by small aircraft but has very few residents.

It is most known as being the namesake of Icy Bay IPA, a beer made by the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau.

Yakutat is one of the major centers of the Tlingit language and the city has received multiple grants over the years to assist with its preservation efforts.

Things to Do in Yakutat

There are many fishing charters in Yakutat, although the experience will be slightly different than in other places in Southeast Alaska.

Due to the presence of large reefs in Yakutat Bay, the average fishing depth is lower than average, making it easier to reel in larger fish.

This makes Yakutat a premier destination for catching halibut, which is highly valued and widely considered to be one of the best-tasting fish in Southeast Alaska.

Yakutat also offers access to the Wrangel-St. Elias Wilderness Area, the largest National Park in North America. In fact, it is the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland – combined!

The park has a visitor’s center in Yakutat with information, nearby rental cabins, and park rangers available to answer questions about the area.

How to Get to Yakutat

Despite being part of the Alaskan mainland, Yakutat is not served by the state’s main highway system and there is no road in or out.

The easiest way to get to Yakutat is by commercial airliner. Alaska Airlines flies to Yakutat Airport on a voyage referred to by locals as “the milk run,” which runs between Juneau and Anchorage and stops in Yakutat and Cordova.

The state’s ferry system, The Alaska Marine Highway System, stops in Yakutat and the city serves as an important hub for the AMHS, due to its location.

On the southeast side, visitors can travel to Juneau, then transfer to another ferry and visit dozens of locations, including Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and Bellingham, Washington.

Since Yakutat is also in the Gulf of Alaska, it offers access to communities in the Southcentral region of the state, as well as the southwestern panhandle, also known as the Aleutian Islands.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Shop

Yakutat has several lodges that offer a room and a fishing charter, including Leonard’s Landing Lodge, the Yakutat Lodge, Glacier Bear Lodge, and Monti Bay Lodge.

There are also several AirB&Bs and traditional bed and breakfasts available in town, including the Alaska Fish’N Snooze, the Yakutat on the Bay, and the Skyview.

The town’s restaurants are all inside the hotels and fishing lodges, as many of the residents live a traditional subsistence lifestyle, which reduces the market outside of the visitor-heavy summer months.

Mallott’s General Store sells gifts, souvenirs, groceries, produce, and much more. It has served the area since 1946 and is owned by the family of the former Mayor of Yakutat, Mayor of Juneau, and Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, who passed away in 2017.

Groceries are also available at the Alaska Commercial Company and a True Value hardware store can be found just a few blocks away.

History of Yakutat

The original inhabitants of the area are believed to be the Eyak people from the Copper River Valley near Cordova.

After some time, the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska added the Eyak to their tribe, with many marriages between the two people. Many residents of Yakutat today are of mixed Tlingit and Eyak heritage.

There were originally several Tlingit-Eyak settlements near the area, but as the rest have been largely abandoned, Yakutat is the only one that remains.

In 1795, Russia built a settlement in the Yakutat area, which they called “New Russia,” which was designed as a trading post for sea otter pellets.

Ten years later, after the Russians had cut off fishing routes used by the local Native Alaskans, a group of Tlingit warriors destroyed the fort, ending Russian involvement in the area.

In the late 1880s, before the Klondike Gold Rush, the black sand beaches in the city were mined for gold.

During World War II, the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a runway to serve the large number of troops garrisoned nearby.

The troops left and the station was abandoned at the end of the war, but the runway is still used today by the Yakutat Airport.

The City and Borough of Yakutat are proud to welcome you on your next amazing Alaskan fishing adventure!

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