St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge

A clump of volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean, this 60-acre island is home to nesting puffins, murres, cormorants, and peregrine falcons from May to September. Thousands of birds show up, making it a loud, raucous place. They come because of the island’s location in the middle of food-rich ocean currents and its lack of predators.

You’ll have to get here by boat; as you drift along, look for tufted puffins building nests in the grassy headlands and stoic murres sitting on their rocky nests. Near the caves, the squawking of cormorants is thunderous. Birds will be whizzing overhead and splashing into the water for food. And when you look away from the birds, you’ll find you’re in the towering shadow of Mount Edgecumbe, the volcanic peak on adjacent Kruzof Island. You’ll probably also see seals, sea lions, and sea otters out here, and might even spot a humpback or grey whale. But the birds are the stars here: this is a truly amazing gathering—one of the migratory wonders of the outer coast.

You’ll have to use a guided boat service to reach St. Lazaria Island, about 10 miles west of Sitka, and on stormy days the island may be inaccessible, but that’s fairly rare. Even small boats can get here over 80 percent of the time.

Getting There

Coordinates
Latitude: 56.986149
Longitude: -135.710299