Sunset on a kayak The Yakutat Glacier has the largest glacial face to enter a fresh water lake in North America. This incredible mixing of fresh water and frozen fresh water gives us an excellent perspective on glaciers and icebergs. When the lake is still you can hear the icebergs melting and popping as the compressed air escapes from the icebergs. We will watch the result of this melting when a huge three story iceberg rolls over, exposing a new face and tipping many of the icebergs around it as well. At night we feel the thundering percussion of the calving glacier face.
More iceThe trip starts in Yakutat where we meet each other and go through the orientation and pack our personal gear for the trip. Then we depart for the lake, driving through the Yakutat forelands, and crossing the Situk River, one of the most productive Salmon rivers in the world. After loading our boats and lining them a few hundred yards up the Dangerous River (dangerous for boats that draw more than 5 inches of water, but not for our kayaks) we go over basic paddling skills and safety procedures. We will then start paddling in and amongst the icebergs, making sure to leave plenty of room between us and the larger pieces of ice. It is almost impossible to paddle through the same area twice as the ice is moving constantly.
solo kayakPaddling the shoreline is an excellent opportunity to view bears, wolves, moose, otters and mink. Wildflowers are thick in the area with the fireweed, Indian paintbrush and touch-me-nots spilling their colors on the sand and rocks. The geological puzzle here is a fascinating opportunity for us to try to put together the past two hundred years. We can walk over glacial remnants, old moraines, and through the succession of plants recolonizing the area.
The varied campsites on the lake give us more opportunity to explore and get to know the different areas of the lake. One campsite might be on a pebble beach, making sure to be far enough up to avoid any waves from the calving glacier. The next campsite may be surrounded by recently exposed bedrock with a view of the glacier. Or, we may camp on the gravel outwash of the glacier where we can watch the glacier and trace the various paths the outwash stream has taken in the past few years.
Fun kayakingEach of these areas provides us with excellent hiking opportunities where we can take a quick hike after dinner, utilizing the long Alaska summer. Or, we can decide not to paddle at all one day and spend the day hiking and exploring ridge tops, river valleys or the shore line. It is impossible to make a bad decision on a day's activities. Sitting quietly on the beach drinking a warm drink may easily provide some of the best wildlife viewing as a otter swims by or even a falcon swoops down on its prey. There is no "best place to be" on this trip.
On the last day we pack our gear for the last time and paddle back to the Dangerous River. The trip back to Yakutat gives us time to think about our experiences at Icy Lake. In Yakutat, you may decide to stay for a few more days to slowly acclimate to the roads and missing icebergs, while you do some world class fishing for salmon or halibut.
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