Kootznoowoo Wilderness

Brown bears, coastal forests, rocky spires

Alaskan rainforest on Admiralty Island © Dave G. Houser/Corbis
Mist in Tongass National Forest on Admiralty Island © Paul A. Souders/Corbis
A wondrous example of the many brown bears that populate Admiralty Island's Kootznoowoo Wilderness © Alaska Stock/Corbis
A humpback whale breaches the water just off Admiralty Island © John Hyde/Design Pics/Corbis
Clouds form over mountains on Admiralty Island © Ben Miller/ableimages/Corbis

Location: Alaska
Size: 956,255 acres
Year Designated: 1980
Fast Fact: The Kootznoowoo Wilderness is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world.

To the indigenous Tlingit of southeastern Alaska, naming the area known today as Admiralty Island was easy: Kootznoowoo, meaning "Bear Fort" or "Fortress of the Bears." It is a fitting name because Kootznoowoo Wilderness, located in the heart of Admiralty Island off the Western coast of Alaska, is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the entire world. For Russian inhabitants, the island earned a different name: “Ostrov Kutsnoi” or “Fear Island”, because the number of brown bears actually outnumbered the number of human inhabitants. Today, as many as 1,500 brown bears roam the island (for comparison, there are roughly 200,000 brown bears left in the world—all of Western Europe has just 8,000). Within the wilderness area itself is the Pack Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, is a great way to see the brown bears in their natural habitat as they hunt, eat, sleep and play; visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the brown bears from the viewing area must obtain a permit, and the area is only open June through September.

In addition to brown bears, the Kootznoowoo Wilderness also boasts one of the largest population of bald eagles in the world. Within the wilderness’ old-growth forests and sedge meadows, Sitka black-tailed deer often roam.