SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Round Island: A Wilderness Adventure
By Marie L. Monyak


January 09, 2006
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska - Is the plural of walrus, walrii?  What do walrus use their tusks for?  How fast can a walrus swim? What state can lay claim to the largest state park in the nation?
Karen Brand, a Staff Officer with the US Forest Service, Ketchikan-Misty Fjords Ranger District answered those questions and more, at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center this past Friday evening.

Brand's passion about wilderness and wildlife led her to visit the Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary, located southwest of Dillingham, Alaska. And as part of the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center's Fridy Night Insight program, she presented many pictures from her trip this past summer along with facts about the walrus and other animals found in the area. Brand also provided information on how one would plan a trip of this magnitude.

jpg Round Island Walrus Sanctuary

Karen Brand, a Staff Officer with the US Forest Service, Ketchikan-Misty Fjords Ranger District, at the Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary.
Photograph courtesy Karen Brand.

Not your typical vacation destination, Round Island is one of four "haulouts" in Bristol Bay, often populated with 2,000 to 10,000 walruses.  First, before you start planning to rush off to Round Island, you must first obtain a permit. The Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation is responsible for issuing five day permits. Permits currently cost $50 per person, and the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation will allow no more than 12 visitors at a time from May through August.
Brand said tent camping involves nailing your accommodation securely to plywood platforms to protect your tent from frequent winds of up to 60 miles per hour.  Well maintained trails and a solitary outhouse are all the conveniences you'll find on this two-mile by one-mile island devoid of trees.  The hearty, daring visitor is rewarded with five amazing days of observing, picture taking, listening and sometimes smelling walruses in their own environment said Brand.
Brand was quick to explain that the plural of walrus is walruses or just plain walrus.  Also, the most often asked question is about their enormous tusks, which it turns out are nothing more than elongated canine teeth.  According to Brand, the walrus use their great tusks to pull themselves onto the ice or in fighting.  In the water, a walrus is not nearly as cumbersome as on land and can reach speeds of 22 mph under water said Brand.

 jpg walruses of Round Island

Walruses of Round Island
Photograph courtesy Karen Brand.

Not to discourage anyone from visiting, Brand did explain what most Alaskans already know.  Traveling within our own state can often take more than one day and prospective visitors to Round Island should expect to spend approximately 36 hours en route.  Brand and her party traveled from Ketchikan by way of Alaska Airlines, Pen Air, a skiff and a fishing boat before reaching Round Island.
Brand's party also raveled from Round Island to Wood-Tikchik State Park, which is not only the largest State park in Alaska, but in the nation, at over 1.6 million acres.  After several more days of camping, sightseeing and boating, Brand's party began their return trip to Ketchikan. She said they were delighted to find that one of their conveyances would be a Grumman Goose.
The Friday Night Insight Program is sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center at 50 Main Street every Friday from October through April at 7 to 8 PM.  There is no charge for the presentations and the theatre is spacious and comfortable with seating for 200.  

This Friday, January 13th, the presentation will be "Ketchikan Ladies Trails Association Adventure:  Exploring the Stikine River and Beyond."  Sher Schwartz, President of the Ketchikan Ladies Trails Association (KLTA) and Jim Leslie of Alaska Waters, Inc. in Wrangell will narrate a slideshow depicting the KLTA's recent 33 mile jet boat exploration on the Stikine River from Wrangell to Telegraph, British Columbia. Highlights of the presentation will include the Glenora Wilderness Ranch, Stikine's Grand Canyon, Telegraph, and trip planning details. In addition, Schwartz will explain the mission of Ketchikan Ladies Trails Association (KLTA) and describe the organization's weekly activities and annual special events.


On the Web:

Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary

Round Island - Walrus Islands

Travel Tips for Round Island Visitors

Friday Night Insight Programs - January 2006


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at

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