Petersburg, Alaska

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Petersburg, Alaska
—  City  —
A picture of a local shipwright.
Motto: "Little Norway. Big Adventure."
Location of Petersburg, Alaska.
Coordinates: 56°48′16″N 132°56′31″W / 56.80444°N 132.94194°W / 56.80444; -132.94194Coordinates: 56°48′16″N 132°56′31″W / 56.80444°N 132.94194°W / 56.80444; -132.94194
CountryUnited States
Census AreaPetersburg
 • MayorAl Dwyer[1]
 • Total46.0 sq mi (119.2 km2)
 • Land43.9 sq mi (113.6 km2)
 • Water2.2 sq mi (5.6 km2)
Elevation36 ft (11 m)
Population (2011)
 • Total3,030
 • Density73.5/sq mi (28.4/km2)
Time zoneAlaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST)AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code99833
Area code907
FIPS code02-60310
GNIS feature ID1424228
WebsiteCity of Petersburg, Alaska
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Petersburg, Alaska
—  City  —
A picture of a local shipwright.
Motto: "Little Norway. Big Adventure."
Location of Petersburg, Alaska.
Coordinates: 56°48′16″N 132°56′31″W / 56.80444°N 132.94194°W / 56.80444; -132.94194Coordinates: 56°48′16″N 132°56′31″W / 56.80444°N 132.94194°W / 56.80444; -132.94194
CountryUnited States
Census AreaPetersburg
 • MayorAl Dwyer[1]
 • Total46.0 sq mi (119.2 km2)
 • Land43.9 sq mi (113.6 km2)
 • Water2.2 sq mi (5.6 km2)
Elevation36 ft (11 m)
Population (2011)
 • Total3,030
 • Density73.5/sq mi (28.4/km2)
Time zoneAlaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST)AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code99833
Area code907
FIPS code02-60310
GNIS feature ID1424228
WebsiteCity of Petersburg, Alaska

Petersburg (Tlingit: "Steamboat Canyon") is a city in Petersburg Census Area, Alaska, in the United States. According to 2009 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 2,824 full-time residents.[2]



The north end of Mitkof Island was a summer fish camp utilized by Kake Tlingits from Kupreanof Island. Remnants of fish traps and some petroglyphs have been carbon-dated back some 2,000 years. Petersburg was named after Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant.[3] He built a cannery, sawmill, docks and early structures. Petersburg flourished as a fishing port. (thanks in part to the plentiful number of icebergs from the nearby LeConte Glacier which would provide a source for cooling fish). His colony grew into Petersburg which, by 1910 was incorporated[4] and populated largely by people of Scandinavian origin thus giving Petersburg the nickname "Little Norway". May 17 (Norwegian Constitution Day) is celebrated annually in Petersburg on the third weekend in May. The cannery, along with three others have operated continuously since their completion. With the establishment of the cannery, Alaskan Natives, including Chief John Lott, began living year-round at the site.

A major year in Petersburg history was 1965 and the founding of Icicle Seafoods. Petersburg fishermen Gordon Jensen and Magnus Martens teamed up with managers Tom Thompson and Bob Thorstenson, Sr. to spearhead a group of fishermen to purchase the Pacific American Fisheries(PAF) plant in a then-declining seafood industry. PAF was traded on the NYSE and had been one of the largest processors in Alaska for a half century. The same, original Bushmann cannery was now in good hands. The shareholders, including Board members Fred File, Fred Haltiner, Jr., Robin Leekley, Jeff Pfundt, Aril Mathisen, Bud Samuelson and many others ( Hofstads, Otness, Petersons to name a few) set out for a journey to create, improve and institute fisheries that sustain Petersburg and many other coastal communities in Alaska today. The company was originally known as PFI but was officially changed to Icicle Seafoods in 1977.


Petersburg is located on the north end of Mitkof Island, where the Wrangell Narrows meets Frederick Sound. Petersburg is halfway between Juneau, 190 km (120 mi) to the north, and Ketchikan, 180 km (110 mi) to the south.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 46.0 square miles (119 km2), of which, 43.9 square miles (114 km2) of it is land and 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2) of it (4.74%) is water.

Mitkof Island is largely covered by low mountains, while the lowlands are mainly made up of muskeg, a type of soil made up of plants in various states of decomposition. It is approximately 20 miles from its north end to its south. The western side of the island borders the Wrangel Narrows. The Wrangell Narrows is one of the Six Listed Narrows in Southeast Alaska.[5] The Narrows provides a somewhat protected waterway for boats, and opens on the south end of the island into Sumner Straits. Sumner Strait Mitkof Island has many creeks that empty into the Narrow, including Blnd Slough, Falls creek, Twin Creeks, and Spirit Creek.[6]

The town is the 12th most lucrative fisheries port in the United States by volume according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. In 2004, 103 million pounds of fish and shellfish passed through Petersburg.


On 16 January 1981, Petersburg registered a daily maximum temperature of 62 °F (17 °C), the highest ever recorded in the month of January in Alaska. Eleven years later, on February 27, 1992, a high of 66 °F (19 °C) was observed, also setting a monthly state record high.

Climate data for Petersburg, Alaska
Average high °F (°C)34.9
Average low °F (°C)23.4
Rainfall inches (mm)10.64
Source: NOAA [7]
A view of the Petersburg waterfront.


Historical populations

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 3,224 people, 1,240 households, and 849 families residing in the city. The population density was 73.5 people per square mile (28.4/km²). There were 1,367 housing units at an average density of 31.2 per square mile (12.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.64% White, 0.31% Black or African American, 7.20% Native American, 2.76% Asian, 0.19% Pacific Islander, 1.86% from other races, from two or more races. 2.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,240 households out of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the city the age distribution of the population shows 29.8% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 24.6% from 45 to 64, and 8.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 108.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 108.0 males.


Commercial Fishing

The median income for a household in the city was $49,028, and the median income for a family was $54,934. Males had a median income of $42,135 versus $28,792 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,827. About 3.3% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.5% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over.

For a brief time during a peak period of the commercial fishing industry Petersburg was rumored to have the highest per-capita income for a working town in the U.S.

Commercial fishing is the dominant economic driver of Petersburg's economy. The top producers harvest well over a million dollars of seafood each and every year. While there is a vibrant salmon troll and gillnet fleet as well as participants in the dungeness crab and dive fisheries, the main producers in Petersburg are the 58 foot limit 'seiners'. These 58 footers harvest salmon, halibut, black cod, king and tanner crab and herring. Many of them travel west to trawl, longline and pot cod in the western Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

Currently making a comeback in the worldwide salmon markets, the 58 foot fleet now boasts crew jobs that can approach six figures. The sustainability of all commercially harvested resources has been a trademark of the fisheries participated in by Petersburg fishermen. Petersburg Vessel Owners Association, resurrected by Gordon Jensen in the 1980s, is the lead association that ensures that all seafood harvested by the Petersburg fleet is done so in a sustainable manner, consistent with the conservation principles embodied in the state of Alaska constitution.

Petersburg also maintains a large continge tof Bristol Bay fishermen. Over 75 Petersburg residents travel each summer to fish commercially on around 35 Bristol Bay vessels in Naknek, Dillingham and King Salmon.


Small cruise-ships (up to 250 passengers) and private yachts visit from May through September.

Petersburg has a high quality visitor experience with very few crowds or tourist peaks experienced by the neighboring communities of Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Partially this is by design and partially this is a result of the natural difficulty of landing large ships in Petersburg and traveling through the treacherous waters adjacent to Petersburg south of town ( Wrangell Narrows)

Recently, in 2011, Seth Morrison and a host of famous skiers filmed their experiences helicopter skiing in the mountains near Petersburg. Sport fishing experiences have been a well kept secret in the Petersburg area as well.


Since it is located on an island with no bridges, Petersburg can be accessed only by air or sea.

Marine transportation

Petersburg receives service from the Alaska Marine Highway. Petersburg is a stop on its Inside Passage route that sees scheduled service both southbound and northbound to other Southeast Alaskan communities, Bellingham, Washington and Prince Rupert, British Columbia Canada.[10]

Air transportation

Jet carrier Alaska Airlines serves Petersburg with both cargo and passenger service from the Petersburg James A. Johnson Airport from Wrangell and Juneau daily, with service ultimately reaching Anchorage and Seattle. There are three charter air companies.


KFSK is a community owned and operated public radio station. The town is also served by KRSA, a religious station, based in Petersburg.

The Petersburg Pilot is a weekly newspaper established in 1974.



Notable residents


Loading boxes of salmon in Petersburg in 1915


External links