In 1795, the British explorer Capt. George Vancouver recorded his entry into the cove that is now called Port Alexander. He was looking for Natives to trade with but found only a deserted village. The site was named in 1849 by Capt. M.D. Tebenkov, Governor of the Russian American colonies. In 1913, salmon trollers began using the rich fishing grounds of the South Chatham Strait area as a seasonal base. Two floating processors arrived soon after. By 1916, there was a fishing supply store, a shore station owned by Northland Trading and Packing Company, and a bakery at Port Alexander. Families of fishermen began coming to the community during the summers, and many of the first arrivals lived in tents. Karl Hansen, a Norwegian immigrant, operated a fish-buying station, the Pacific Mild Cure Company. He also sold supplies and fuel and installed a wireless station. During the 1920s and 1930s, a year-round community had evolved around the prosperous fishing fleet, and houses, stores, restaurants, a post office, and a school were constructed. A soda fountain, butcher shop, dairy, dance hall, and hotel were also built. During the summer, over 1,000 fishing boats would anchor in the protected harbor. Beginning in 1938, fish stocks declined dramatically and processing became uneconomical. The outbreak of World War II essentially collapsed the town’s economy; a bankrupted, Karl Hansen left Port Alexander in the late 1940s, after 20 prosperous years and 10 years of struggle. By 1950, 22 residents lived in the town year-round. In the 1970s, state land disposal sales and upswings in salmon stocks enabled new families to build and settle in the community. The city incorporated in 1974 and seceded from the City and Borough of Sitka during that year.
Today Port Alexander is still a fishing community with a quiet, family-oriented lifestyle. Commercial fishing and subsistence uses of marine and forest resources constitute the economic base. Twenty residents hold commercial fishing permits. The City, school and post office provide the only year-round cash employment. Deer, salmon, halibut, shrimp and crab are favorite food sources. The city is encouraging more lodging industries.
Location & Climate
Port Alexander is located on the south end of Baranof Island, 65 miles south of Sitka. It provides a safe harbor during the gales and storms that frequent Chatham Strait. It is also an ice-free port during the winter. It lies at approximately 56.249720 North Latitude and -134.644440 West Longitude. (Sec. 07, T065S, R070E, Copper River Meridian.) Port Alexander is located in the Petersburg Recording District. The area encompasses 3.8 sq. miles of land and 11.3 sq. miles of water. Port Alexander is in the maritime climate zone, marked by cool summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures range from 41 to 55 °F; winter temperatures from 32 to 45 °F. Record temperatures range from 4 to 80 °F. The average total precipitation is 172 inches per year, with 85 inches of snow. *State of AK, DOT AMHS.
52 (US Census)
2nd Class City incorporated in 1974. Regular elections are held the 1st Tuesday in October. City Council meets the 1st Monday of every month. The current city sales tax is 4%.
Individual diesel generators.
Water & Sewer Utilities
Water is derived from Dirty Dick Dam and is treated, stored in a tank and piped to households. One home uses a rain catchment system. Individual septic tanks, honey buckets, or outhouses are used for sewage disposal.
Aluminum is shipped to Sitka for recycling. There are no other solid waste services.
State-owned/operated sea/float plane base. The facilities include a breakwater, dock and small boat harbor for moorage.
Accessible by float plane or small boat. The facilities include a breakwater, dock and small boat harbor for moorage.
Port Alexander School is in the Southeast Island Schools District and offers K-12 classes. Enrolment in the 2010-11 school year was 10. Student-teacher ratio: 14.3:1.
There are no health care facilities for this community. Port Alexander EMS. Emergency service is provided by volunteers.
Other Community Buildings: City/Bear Hall Community Center, School Library, Bear Hall Community Library.