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America's Most Pictorial State

By Glenn Arnette, lll

Remember last week I told you “dreams do come true”? Well, when you go to Alaska you will find that those dreams are created by Alaska Waters, Inc. Jim Leslie and Wilma Stokes-Leslie own the Native American company and they guarantee all trips into the wilderness to the authentic and professional. There are no games played with this organization, as the Alaskan wilderness requires exceptional knowledge.

Jim has lived in Alaska for over 30 years and has over 12,000 hours operating boats in the Alaska waters, especially the Stikine River. Wilma is Jim’s wife and a true Alaskan native of Tlingie and Haida descent. She is of the Haida nation, Raven moiety, Yahku Laanaas clan and Double Fin Killer Whale House. Now, top that for family background! She is the most exciting person to know and travel with and she is well known in Wrangell and the tourist industry. Both of them lead a great team of captains and staff to provide their guests with the best tours and charters available.

The Alaska Water, Inc. offers you a one stop experience for lodging to excursions. Wilma and Jim will do everything necessary to take the travel burdens off your back. When you contact them, all you need to say is, “I want to come to Wrangell and have the wilderness experience.” At that point you pack your bags and leave.

On arrival in Wrangell, you must take the time to see the village. There is Rock Art, Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Southern Coastal Alaska, the Nolan Center with one of the finest historical and Native American Museums in the Country, Muskeg Meadows Golf Course, an amazing layout for the most prestigious golfer, Totem Park,

Chief Shakes Island and tribal House, the views from Nemo Point, Rainbow Falls and Church Street. And that is just the beginning of Wrangell. That portion of your trip can up to two days. 

From Wrangell and most of your remaining time in Alaska will be spent with Jim and Wilma. You start each day around 6:30 A.M. and usually get back to your lodge around 6 – 7 P.M. and you still will be begging for more. Understand, everything is taken care of for you, including great lunches and snacks along the way.

Alaska Waters, Inc. offers a day tour to Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory about 35 miles southeast of Wrangell. After your jet boat experience to get there you will not believe how close you can get to bear and wildlife under the supervised leadership of Jim (with rifle for protecting…just in case). This is a must and a camera experience you will talk about for years. You really stand with the black and brown bear and watch them as they feed on salmon in the lagoon. It is the best world class bear viewing!

On another day tour, let Alaska Waters, Inc. take you up the Stikine River. (“Stik-Heen”) It flows 400 miles from the snow capped Canadian mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It has the largest springtime concentration of Bald Eagles in the world and is prime habitat for migrating waterfowl, shore birds, moose, bear and spawning salmon.

While you are traveling the river, Jim will be giving you wonderful information about the area and its special sites. Wait until you see Chief Shakes Glacier as you are navigated through a maze of topaz blue icebergs where you can chip ice off for your drink from a berg over 100 years old. Now that makes for a COLD cocktail!

Then there is the outing for two nights up the river 162 miles to Telegraph Creek. This is spectacular! I loved every minute of this adventure into the real wilderness to an outpost where the gold diggers use to stop on the way to the Klondike. There you will stay in the Stikine River Song Lodge surrounded by a deserted Native village. The Lodge goes back many years and has creaky floors, a fantastic café with delicious food and a general store. This is the place to take a floatplane and fly over the volcanoes and the Stikine River’s Grand Canyon. Then once back at the Song Lodge, Jim and Wilma will take you jet boat on the most exciting number 5 rapids you will ever see up to Grand Canyon. You stand on the back of the boat and hold on and let the air and water free you for life. FANTASTIC!

Now that is just the beginning of many things you will be doing by water. Fishing is the best in the world. From Halibut of all sizes up to 250 pounds and more to salmon is every size, you will never want to fish anywhere else again. During the season, you don’t even catch the salmon in the mouth. There are so many you can just throw the hook in the water and catch a tail, fin, whatever. I’m a pro now!

(Thanks to Jim)

You can jet boat to other villages, visit uninhabited islands where not man has ever gone (except Jim and Wilma), lunch on the banks of bear island, gather stones and rocks from the Stikine River, photograph beautiful wildlife in the natural inhabit ate and more. Life is beautiful here; i.e., quiet, serene, breathtaking and most of all God like. It will put you in touch with yourself and make you realize what life is all about. I thank Alaska Waters, Inc. for my experience.