58.24 North – 135.44 West
Gustavus is a community of approximately 420 people about 60 miles northwest of Juneau. It is fondly known as the “Gateway to Glacier Bay National Park”. Gustavus lies on the north shore of Icy Passage at the mouth of the Salmon River on a huge outwash created by the receding glaciers. Most of the area is relatively flat compared to the rest of Southeast Alaska.
Surrounding Gustavus on three sides is the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, with it’s majestic mountains and of course, glaciers. The ocean encloses the rest. The park encompasses 3.3 million acres and features 16 tidewater glaciers. Over 350,000 people visit Glacier Bay each year, but most stay on their cruise ships. It is also a great place to study glaciers because the glacial recession has been the fastest ever recorded – over 60 miles in less than 200 years. John Muir was one of the more famous people to visit. Glacier Bay hosts a huge variety of wildlife, including brown bears, moose, and humpback whales. Surrounded by huge mountains, the glaciers and icebergs contrast with the rainforest of spruce, hemlock, alders, and cottonwoods.
Historically, Gustavus was known as “Strawberry Point” because wild strawberries are abundant in the area. Delicate, small and very sweet, these berries grow just about anywhere, extending right into the dirt roads. Other wild berries include blueberries, high bush cranberries, lagoonberries, and red huckleberries.
Agricultural homesteading began in 1914 and gardening is still extremely popular with many residents. The name changed to Gustavus when the post office opened in 1925.
The economy is seasonal. Major employers include the Park Service, tourism, and fishing. Other employment is available at the school, airport and other small businesses. Throughout the year, small plane service is available, and during the summer months there is limited service through Alaska Airlines. Like most communities within Southeast Alaska, there are no roads leading to Gustavus but the residents, including the moose, take that in stride.