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Baranof Island

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Title: Baranof Island  
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Subject: South Baranof Wilderness, Indian River (Alaska), Sitka Seaplane Base, Coastal Waters of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, List of islands of the United States by area
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Baranof Island

Baranof Island
Native name: Sheet’-ká X'áat'l
Islands of the Pacific Northwest Coast
Baranof Island is located in Alaska
Baranof Island
Location in Alaska
Location ABC islands of Alaska
Archipelago Alexander Archipelago
Area 1,607 sq mi (4,160 km2)
Length 100 mi (200 km)
Width 30 mi (50 km)
Highest elevation 5,390 ft (1,643 m)
United States
State Alaska
Population 8532 (as of 2000)
Density 2.05 /km2 (5.31 /sq mi)

Baranof Island, also sometimes called Baranov Island, Shee or Sitka Island, is an island in the northern Alexander Archipelago in the Alaska Panhandle, in Alaska. The name Baranof was given in 1805 by Imperial Russian Navy captain U. F. Lisianski to honor Alexander Andreyevich Baranov.[1] It was called Sheet’-ká X'áat'l (often expressed simply as "Shee"[2]) by the native Tlingit people. It is the smallest of the ABC islands of Alaska.


The island has a land area of 1,607 square miles (4,162 square kilometers),[3] which is slightly smaller than the State of Delaware. It measures 105 miles (169 kilometers)[3] by 30 miles (48 kilometers) at its longest point and perpendicular widest point, respectively. It has a shoreline of 617 miles.[4] Baranof Island hosts the highest mountain in the Alexander Archipelago, and is the eighth largest island in Alaska, the tenth largest island in the United States, and the 137th largest island in the world. Its center is near . Most of the island lies within the limits of Tongass National Forest. A large part has been officially designated as the South Baranof Wilderness.


The population of the island was 8,532 at the 2000 census.

Almost the entire area of the island is part of the City and Borough of Sitka (Sitka also extends northward onto Chichagof Island); the only part of Baranof that is not in Sitka is a tiny sliver of land (9.75 km²) at the extreme southeast corner, which is in the Petersburg Census Area, and includes the town of Port Alexander. This section had a 2000 census population of 81 persons. The towns of Baranof Warm Springs, Port Armstrong, and Port Walter are also located on the eastern side of the island. Goddard, a now-abandoned settlement about 16 miles south of Sitka, features a few private homes and hot springs with two public bathhouses. There are also five year-round salmon hatcheries, one located just north of Port Alexander at Port Armstrong, another located just north of Baranof Warm Springs at Hidden Falls, two are located in the city of Sitka one at the Sitka Sound Science Center, and another in the Sawmill Cove Business Park; the other just south of Sitka near Medvejie Lake. The latter is accessible by private road from Sitka. All of these communities, except for Port Alexander and Port Armstrong, are under the jurisdiction of the City and Borough of Sitka, of which, Sitka serves as the borough seat.

Fishing, seafood processing, and tourism are important industries on the island, which is also famous for brown bears and Sitka deer.

Social and economic history

The first European settlement on island was established in 1799 by Alexandr Baranov, Chief Manager and first Governor of the Russian-American Company, for whom the island and Archipelago are named. Baranov Island was the center of Russian activity in North America during the period from 1804–1867 and was the headquarters of the Russian fur-trading interest.

Around 1900, Baranof Island was subject to many small-scale mining ventures, especially centered around Sitka and on the north side of the island around Rodman Bay. Canneries, whaling stations, and fox farms were established on Baranof Island and smaller islands around it, though most had been abandoned by the beginning of World War II. The remains of these outposts are still evident, though most exist in a dilapidated condition.

In February 1924 the Alaska Territorial Game Commission hired Charlie Raatakainen to transplant mainland goats from near Juneau to Bear Mountain. Raatakainen hired a group of Finns aboard his boat the Pelican to complete the job, though one of the group died in the process.[5]

The 1939 Slattery Report on Alaskan development identified the island as one of the areas where new settlements would be established through immigration. This plan was never implemented.

Fictional accounts

Louis L'Amour's novel "Sitka" describes conflict between the Russian fur trading empire and Yankee settlers.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a 2007 alternate-history novel by Michael Chabon about a Jewish Yiddish-speaking territory in Sitka, including most of Baranov Island.[6] The novel proceeds from the counter-factual premise that the Slattery Report had actually been implemented.

Local Author John Straley has written a number of mystery novels set on and around Baranof Island.

References and notes

  1. ^ Orth, Donald J. (1967). Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Geological Survey, Professional Paper 567. Washington: United States Government Printing Office. 
  2. ^ Orth, Donald J. (1967). Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Geological Survey, Professional Paper 567. Washington: United States Government Printing Office.  Spelled "Shi" in Orth's citation of Hodge.
  3. ^ a b DeArmond, R. N. (1995). Southeast Alaska: Names on the Chart and how they get there. Juneau, Alaska: Ripley/DeArmond. 
  4. ^ DeArmond, R. N.; Patricia Roppel (1997). Baranof Island's Eastern Shore: "The Waterfall Coast". Sitka, Alaska: Arrowhead Press. p. 7. 
  5. ^ Yaw, W. Leslie (2001). Targets Hit and Targets Missed: hunting in Southeast Alaska. Ward Cove, Alaska: Ocean's Edge Publishing. p. 66.  
  6. ^ "Novel involving Alaska Jewish colony is rooted in history," Tom Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News.

See also

External links

  • Tlingit Geographical Place Names for the Sheet’Ka Kwaan — Sitka Tribe of Alaska, an interactive map of Sitka Area native place names.
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