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The History of Gustavus, Alaska

A Guide to Modern Gustavus

Gustavus lies on the north shore of Icy Passage at the mouth of the Salmon River, 48 air miles northwest of Juneau in the St. Elias Mountains. It lies at the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, adjacent to Park land. Glacier Bay Park is 3.3 million acres, and offers 16 tidewater glaciers. It lies at approximately 58 24' N Latitude, 135 44' W Longitude . The community is located in the Juneau Recording District. The area encompasses 38 sq. miles of land and 18 sq. miles of water.

When Capt. George Vancouver sailed through Icy Strait in 1794, Glacier Bay was completely enclosed by the Grand Pacific Glacier. Over the next century, the glacier retreated some 40 miles, and a spruce-hemlock forest began to develop. By 1916, it had retreated 65 miles from the position observed by Vancouver in 1794. Gustavus began as an agricultural homestead in 1914. It was once known as Strawberry Point due to the abundant wild strawberries. The current name was derived from Point Gustavus, which lies 7 miles to the southwest. Glacier Bay National Monument was established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925. It became a National Park in 1980, with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development