Ford's Terror Wilderness Kayaking Expedition
"We found ourselves on a smooth mirror reach between granite walls of the very wildest and most exciting description, surpassing in some ways those of the far-famed Yosemite Valley."
Ford's Terror is a very steep and narrow fjord 60 miles southeast of Juneau within the Tracy Arm-Ford's Terror Wilderness. It is named after a naval crew member who, in 1889, rowed a dinghy into the narrow entrance of the fjord at slack tide and suffered six "terrifying" hours trapped in the turbulent currents.
Luckily for us, tide tables and plenty of experience allow us to contemplate Ford's predicament from the safety of a nearby camp!
Expedition Details — Ford's Terror [FT]
Location: Ford's Terror Wilderness, Endicott Arm
Duration: Expedition length is five to seven days. Custom trips by arrangement.
Paddle Distance: 40-60 miles.
Activities: Paddling, photography, wildlife viewing, hiking, swimming.
Highlights: Paddling among giant icebergs and below towering fjord walls; wilderness solitude, Ford's Terror tidal rips, immense waterfalls, glacier-front campsite.
Schedule and Prices: see Schedule for currently available trips and prices.
Book Your Trip: go to Trip Reservations to book your trip today, or call 1-800-KAYAKER!
Trip Description — Ford's Terror [FT]
We begin our expedition with a dramatic sea plane flight from Juneau, which leaves us at our campsite within the sheer walls of the fjord. After assembling our kayaks and learning and practicing safety and basic skills, we spend two days exploring the fjord and the valleys at its head. By foot and kayak, we travel beneath sheer granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls, observing brown bear tracks and the wildlife of the inner fjord.
Proceeding down bay, we camp at a wonderful site at the narrow entrance of the fjord. Here we watch the turbulent iceberg-laden current change direction every six hours while we imagine the "terror" that Ford experienced a century ago. We anticipate the possibility of a black or brown bear sighting on the opposite side of the channel while we eat a wonderful dinner. We also take a short hike to a perch atop the smooth granite walls overlooking the "terror". From there we can watch the standing waves, whirlpools, and charging icebergs against a backdrop of cascades and sheer granite cliffs.
Past the mouth of Ford's Terror, we enter the Endicott Arm and paddle within a realm of ice and rich marine life. Blue and white sculpted icebergs float by, becoming larger and more plentiful as we approach the head of the fjord. Seals and porpoises are common on the water, while above us mountain goats and bears can be seen on the fjord walls. After a full day of paddling, we reach the mouth of North Dawes Glacier and our next campsite. Here, an icy glacial outwash river divides a meadow and scree slope with a big waterfall. Black bears commonly come down to the meadow to graze.
The following day we continue paddling until we reach the spectacular Dawes Glacier at the head of the fjord. A glacier-front campsite gives us the perfect vantage to watch huge icebergs calving off the face of the Dawes. We can hear the glacier rumbling and thundering all the time and (safely) watch as the waves surge down the shoreline of the fjord. Some time is spent exploring the head of the fjord in our kayaks and simply floating amongst the ice and taking in the glacier against a backdrop of jagged peaks. After one or two nights (depending on the length of the trip) at the face of the glacier, we will paddle back to North Dawes. As we await our float plane pick-up, the sounds and sights of the glacier linger in our minds. Like the explorers here before us, the majesty and awe of this ice-carved land has etched itself into our experience.
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