Myriad Islands - Kayak Alaska's Wild Outer Coast!
The Myriad Islands lie on the edge of the West Chichagof-Yakobi Island Wilderness area, and within the Tongass National Forest. Alaskans and visitors alike have long recognized West Chichagof as one the most wild and beautiful coastlines in the state. In fact, it was the first citizen-proposed Wilderness area in Alaska—the result of a 13-year effort that now provides the highest level of protection possible for the region. Ask any paddler or Southeast Alaskan who has ever spent time on the outer coast and they will tell you: this is THE Alaskan Wilderness!
Hours by boat from any community, this is a remote destination where the bears are wild, the rivers are teeming with salmon, huge rafts of sea otters thrive, and where whales of the Inside Passage—humpbacks, orcas—meet grey whales traveling the outer coast. Around every island lies another stunning view: ridges, mountains, and river valleys blend with the old-growth forests along the water’s edge; rocky cliffs, kelp beds and rock gardens create a coastline loaded with sea birds and intertidal life; when gentle ocean swells beckon us to venture outside of the barrier islands, the vast Pacific Ocean welcomes us to explore the edge of a continent.
Expedition Details — Myriad Islands [MI]
Location: West Chichagof Island Wilderness
Duration: Expedition length is seven days. Custom trips by arrangement.
Paddle Distance: 30-40 miles.
Activities: Paddling, fishing, wildlife watching, photography, rain forest and muskeg hiking, wilderness camping.
Highlights: Paddling in a variety of conditions, among hundreds of tiny islands and channels, and in gentle ocean swell; abundant wildlife; wilderness solitude and beautiful scenery.
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 — Myriad Islands [MI]
Chichagof Island is the northernmost and second largest island of Southeast Alaska and is separated from the mainland by an extension of the Inside Passage. The glaciers which gouged this waterway to depths of over 1,000 feet carved on Chichagof a shoreline so convoluted that it measures 742 miles in length — as long as the coast of a circular island twenty times as large. This Wilderness area is perfect sea kayaking country and the setting for our week-long expedition into one of Alaska’s most wild settings!
We begin our expedition with a scenic 3-hour boat ride from Gustavus to Goulding Harbor. After learning basic paddling skills, we launch the kayaks to explore the islands! One of our greatest thrills is to paddle to the head of the harbor to witness the spectacle of salmon swimming upriver by the thousands! They are so numerous that we cannot wade the river without them swimming between our legs. The physical changes that accompany spawning have given these fish fierce-looking hooked jaws, humped backs, and have mottled their sides with red and green. Brown bears have trampled down the grass of the banks and scattered salmon carcasses, half-eaten, for the bald eagles and gulls to finish. More often than not we are privileged to see bears fishing, playing, or traveling the shores. And the fishing is, indeed, great! Freshly caught salmon or trout gives us food for thought, nourishes our spirits, and connects us with the land. On our second day in Goulding Harbor, we have the opportunity to explore the salmon-fed forests along the river’s edge. Hiking upstream through old-growth forests of towering spruce and hemlock brings us to an incredible waterfall.
Traveling south through the still fjords and bays, we catch glimpses of the open ocean between the islands. Our next campsite sits at the mouth of Black Bay, an iconic image of Southeast Alaska: here mountains, ancient moss-covered forests, and wildlife fill the vast wilderness. Continuing on toward the open ocean, the landscape begins to change, however. Thick stands of spruce and large islands give way to hundreds of smaller islets. As we meander between their passages, rafts of sea otters and cliff-nesting cormorants become common sights. Shell beaches, rocky headlands, and small pine forests usher us to our next site on the edge of the Myriad Islands.
We land and launch our kayaks, coming and going to explore the hundreds of islands along the sea. Harbor seals, sea otters, porpoise, whales and sea birds are abundant here, as we paddle, drift, observe and paddle with the ebb and flow of the ocean. On calm days, the ocean allows us to paddle outside the barrier islands, kayaking among the gentle swells, exploring the edge of the continent. Hiking in the Myriads brings us to muskeg, with its stunted, bonsai-like lodgepole pine, grassy meadows, and many small pools. A five minute walk from camp, we can look out over the vast Pacific and watch the incoming swells, and hear the cacophony of sea lions from a rookery about a mile offshore. From our vantage point, we see whales traveling along the outer coast, and watch as the long sunsets of summer paint the sky above the Gulf of Alaska.
Our pickup seems to arrive too quickly. A week in wilderness has allowed us to truly become part of the rhythm of the Myriad Islands, to experience the wildness of the outer coast – THE Alaskan Wilderness!
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