A Paddler’s Dream: Kayaking in the Misty Fjords with Chaco Ambassador Susan Shain
Posted On: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - Chaconians
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending three days kayaking in the beautiful Misty Fjords National Monument. The Misty Fjords is 2.3 million acres of pristine wilderness -- beautiful, vast, and best of all, empty.
Misty Fjords National Monument is the largest national monument in the United States. Located in the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, it’s inaccessible by roads: the only way to reach it is by boat or floatplane. The glacially-carved fjords are covered in trees, waterfalls, and wildlife… and not a whole lot else.
Though the area is a kayaker’s paradise, most people have never heard of it. I know I hadn’t until I moved to Southeast Alaska in the summer of 2010. It’s located about 40 nautical miles from Ketchikan, which is the southernmost (and rainiest) city in Alaska. With a population of 12,000, it’s also the fourth largest.
Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island, the 12th largest island in the United States. Most of the island remains uninhabited, with Ketchikan occupying a small strip along the western coast. The town bustles with commercial fishermen and cruise ship visitors (the two biggest industries) during the summer.
Though the cruise ship visitors can get a taste of sea kayaking during their short stay, real kayakers will want to come to Ketchikan independently so that they can get the full experience. There are two flights daily from Ketchikan, or Alaska Marine Highway ferries from Bellingham, Washington, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. In my opinion, taking the ferry is a cool experience in and of itself -- and is also a good way to transport kayaks and cars.
Once you’re here in Ketchikan, you should take a little time to explore the historic village and learn about the area’s native cultures before heading out on your paddle.
My friends and I took a 2.5-hour water taxi from town to Rudyerd Bay, which is the most iconic image you’ll find of the Misties: sheer 3,000-foot granite cliffs shooting straight into the Pacific Ocean.
We camped in the bay’s Punchbowl Cove for the night, where there’s also access to a lovely hike up to Punchbowl Lake. (I probably don’t have to remind Chaconians to follow Leave No Trace camping techniques and to adhere to the rules of bear safety.)
The next day, we paddled first to Checats Cove for lunch, then on to Winstanley Island Cabin, where we stayed for the night. (The US Forest Service cabins in Alaska are an incredible deal at $35/night.)
Our third day, we relaxed in the sunshine before our afternoon water taxi pick-up. Just a warning: this wasn’t normal weather for the Misty Fjords. It doesn’t get its name from nothing! On the 2-hour ride home, we were joined by a pod of resident orcas. After a few blissful days of remote paddling, this was just icing on an already amazing cake.
2.3 million acres of rainforest and ocean... to yourself? I don’t think I need to tell you Chaconians anything else. Get yourself to the Misties!
About Susan Shain: working seasonal adventure jobs and traveling the world since 2008, she's worked everywhere from Colorado to Korea and traveled to all corners of the earth -- Chacos in tow! She's worn her Chacos everywhere from exploring the deserts of Mongolia to kayaking in Southeast Alaska to working as a volunteer teacher in Nicaragua. She writes for Chaco and on her travel blog, Travel Junkette.