Alexander Baranof, the first governor of Russian America, built his headquarters in nearby Sitka and left his name on this large island (1,600 square miles). Most of the southern extremity of the island (319,568 acres) has been designated the South Baranof Wilderness. Bounded on the west by the Gulf of Alaska, the scenery is stunningly picturesque with granite glacier-scored mountains, long saltwater fjords and hanging lake valleys (Nowacki, 2001). On the east side of the wilderness by Chatham Strait, the saltwater coastline is not as rugged and there is a higher snow accumulation over the whole area. Mount Ada at 4,528 feet, is on this side of the island and is the highest peak in the Wilderness. The top of the mountain is less than three miles from saltwater. Permanent snowfields and active glaciers blanket the high country above 2,000 feet, giving way to dense undergrowth in a coastal forest of spruce and hemlock. This wilderness receives an average of 200 inches of precipitation per year with temperatures ranging from mid-20s to high 60s. The wildlife that inhabits this area includes brown bears, Sitka black-tail deer, mink, marten and river otters, trout and salmon (seasonally), as wells as eagles and shorebirds. Seals, sea lions, whales, and a large population of sea otters are often seen offshore, and crab, shrimp, herring, salmon and halibut are harvested from the sea. Within the Wilderness, three U.S. Forest Service cabins can be rented at Avoss Lake, Davidof Lake, and Plotnikof Lake. Chartered floatplanes are the only way to access these lake cabins. Each cabin has a 12' skiff with oars. Along the coast, boaters will find ample opportunities to anchor in relatively sheltered coves.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the South Baranof Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.