The Port of Thorne Bay lies on the shores of Prince William Island at the southern end of Alaska's southeastern panhandle some 71 kilometers (44 miles) northwest of Ketchikan and 208 kilometers (129 miles) northwest of Prince Rupert Port in British Columbia, Canada. The 2000 US Census reported a little over 460 people living in the Port of Thorne Bay, 92% of them white. Native Alaskans make up just 3% of the population of the Port of Thorne Bay.
The Port of Thorne Bay was named for Frank Manley Thorn, who was a manager of the US Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey between 1885 and 1889.
In the early 1960s, the Port of Thorne Bay began as a floating logging camp for the Ketchikan Pulp Company. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was the biggest logging camp in North America, housing up to 1500 residents. Roads were constructed to connect the Port of Thorne Bay with the nearby ports of Craig, Hollis, and Klawock. In 1982, the Port of Thorne Bay became a second class city.
In 1954, the US Forest Service had entered into a contract that guaranteed 150 million board feet of timber for the Ketchikan pulp mill and sawmills. By 1990, the harvest had decreased to 50 million board feet per year, and the logging company left the area, citing the Forest Service's breach of contract.
Today, the Port of Thorne Bay economy is based largely on employment with the Forest Service and in public education. Many of the Port of Thorne Bay's residents are there on a seasonal basis.