The island of Kodiak, Alaska, 250 mi/400 km southwest of Anchorage, is known for its large population of Kodiak brown bears, and the largest town on the island, also named Kodiak, is known for its big fishing fleet. Kodiak is the second-largest U.S. island (the Big Island of Hawaii is No. 1). It is sometimes called Alaska's Emerald Isle because of the lush environment created by its relatively warm weather (July and August highs average around 60 F/16 C) and steady rain and fog. Much of the island is preserved in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, where you'll find the Kodiak brown bear and hundreds of bird species, otter, deer, foxes and marine mammals.

As you stroll around town, you may notice several plaques that describe the devastation from the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964. The quake, which lasted five minutes, was followed by a tsunami that destroyed much of the town.

Kodiak (the name of the island and the main town) has several excellent museums, which are wonderful places to learn a bit about the area's Alaska Native, Russian and natural history (and a welcome respite if the weather's wet). The Baranov Museum has an impressive display of prehistoric artifacts, Russian icons and household items from the 1800s, as well as an exhibit about the 1964 earthquake. The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository was established to preserve the heritage of the people native to the island.

If you have time, try to see the famous Kodiak brown bears, the largest members of the brown bear family. It's an experience you won't soon forget. The best way to see them is to sign up for a tour. Nearly every air charter service offers bear-viewing trips. Some operators run strictly flightseeing trips, but others will land when they find a good viewing spot. For more information about the bears, contact the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

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