Trip report of paddling in the southwestern Prince William Sound, Alaska in July 2009. One of the best paddle trips I've ever done.
July 7. My friend Jean and I took the Alaska State ferry from Whittier to Chenega Village on Evans Island. The trip on the Aurora took 4 Ĺ hours through calm seas and sunny but hazy skies. Onboard were 7 kayaks and 9 kayakers plus a few other passengers. The ferry provided a pickup truck that hauled our gear from the Whittier dock into the ferry then onto the Chenaga Village dock. We hand carried the boats on and off the ferry.
The trip started with minus tides. We arrived at Chenaga Village near a low tide of 3.5 feet at 7:00 pm. Launching off the boat ramp was not possible because of the low tide. There is a small beach south of the dock where boats can be launched though. We paddled north a few miles to a beach and camped for the night. There were very few bugs on the beach.
July 8. A calm sunny warm day with haze with a breeze in the afternoon. Paddled to the top Evans Island and camped there. Often saw bald eagles, seals, sea otters, sea lions and a group of land otters. For two hours whales (fin?) were blowing and diving near us. Quite a show. At supper a humpback leaped and crashed back into the ocean with a resounding explosion. Wish we had a hydrophone to listen in on the whales, but Jean forgot to bring hers. Saw two kayakers from the ferry. Very few bugs.
July 9. The morning started out foggy with a light breeze with winds increasing to 15 knots by noon and sunny. Fog rolled in by late afternoon. We paddled part way down the western side of Evans Island through Prince of Wales Passage. The current slowed us by about 0.5 knots. We saw a group of sea otters with pups, then a group of 40 seals on a rock. They all splashed into the water when they saw us. Bald eagles are seen frequently. Also saw three kayaks, two came with us on the ferry.
A black bear was patrolling the beach we camped on just before we landed. There were lots of bear and deer tracks but no animals while camping. The beach is well protected from the southerly winds. A nearby stream had a great place to bathe. We brought a hummingbird feeder with us and have set it up in camp. It has been doing a great job attracting the little guys. Some of the birds can figure it out and others cannot. They are a joy to watch while we eat.
July 10. Low clouds and calm seas in the morning with fog moving in before leaving. Saw seals, sea lions, and eagles. Hugged the coast down to Squirrel Bay in the dense fog. There is a huge sandy beach where we decided to camp since we had no visibility and we didnít want to miss the beautiful coast in the fog. This is one of the longest beaches Iíve seen in the Sound. There is a small stream on the beach too. Began to feel the ocean swells today. Lots of bear and deer tracks on the beach.
July 11. It was foggy all night and it began lifting by late morning.. We crossed to Bainbridge Island but before we got there a whale (fin?) was feeding perpendicular to our path. We stopped and watched it for a while then quickly paddled to the shore before it began its next feeding pass. They we paddled east along the shore.
The water thus far has been very clear so we can see all the marine life. There is also lots of bull kelp through the area. We saw sea otters with pups, seals, sea lions, and eagles. We also saw an active eagle nest on a cliff.
We paddled to Procession rocks to a rookery of over 100 sea lions plus cormorants, puffins, and gulls. The big guys followed us around and the younger sea lions bobbed up and down watching us. It was quite exciting.
The coast has a wild rugged look and feel. There are at least two beaches to land on but this requires surf landings. We had two foot swells but the landings were still wet. We paddled over to Swanson Bay to a calm sandy beach for lunch. We camped on a protected beach in Hogg Bay. We set up the humming bird feeder and got lots of birds.
July 12. We had low clouds and calm seas. Saw five Orcas in Port Bainbridge as we ate breakfast. Also saw sea otters, sea lions, and eagles as we paddled to Bainbridge glacier. This is no longer a tide-water glacier but it has a huge boulder moraine in front of it. The face of the ice is quite far from the beach. We did not walk to the glacier but that would be an interesting hike. The north and south ends of cobble moraine have gravel beaches to land a kayak. It is also possible to camp there. The water is murky here.
While we were paddling along the moraine we saw a mountain goat walking on the beach. It stopped and looked at us then continued down the beach. Quite the surprise. Then we paddled up to Puffin Cove. There were no salmon in the cove yet but there were lots of puffins resting on the cliffs and flying around.
The day became sunny and the breeze picked up with low clouds moving in by evening. We camped on a beach 2 miles north of Bainbridge Passage. There were no boats of any kind today. Saw two Orcas while eating supper.
July 13. It was a foggy morning but it cleared off by 10:00 am. We saw eagles, sea otters, and sea lions. We entered Bainbridge Passage one-half hour before slack tide and could feel the current against us. After the flood started we got up to a speed of 4.8 mph. Stopped at the campsite noted on the Trails Illustrated map in the middle of the passage. It has a nice campsite on the southern end of the beach.
The passage is beautiful to paddle. We met one of the paddlers from the ferry camped on an island north of the passage. Still no luck fishing. Camped at the top of Bainbridge Island on a beautiful beach. Bear sign is still on all the beaches. Hummingbirds are still attracted to the feeder. Saw seven land otters swimming by.
July 14. Whales woke us up last night. They blew with very loud explosions several dozen times. It was too dim to see them, but they were swimming back and forth across the small bay where we were camped. The night was very quiet now that we are not near the Gulf of Alaska swells. We saw ice floating out of Icy Bay in the morning. Two days ago we heard load booms coming from Icy Bay when we were in Port Bainbridge. That must have been ice calving off the glaciers and that release might be making its way out of Icy Bay.
The day had low clouds then became partly sunny be afternoon. The wind and seas were light. We paddled to the Pleiades Islands and heard a whale blow as we got there but we did not see it. The Pleiades are just cliffs with no place to land. We continued to the reefs and islands on the western side of Knight Island. The water is crystal clear. We saw lots of sea otters with pups, which was quite fun.
We looked for the campsite in Johnson Bay shown on the Trails Illustrated map. There is a trickle of a stream there where we got water but there is no camping there or any where in Johnson Bay. The stream at the back of the bay comes out of a cliff and this is not an option to get water. The beaches for camping are very few on the western side of Knight Island but there are beaches for breaks. We finally found a camping beach a few miles north of Johnson Bay.
Jean saw 30 seals that jumped into the water when they saw her. Also saw an active eagle nest. No kayakers today.
July 15. The day started as partly cloudy then became clear. It was windless and the seas were quiet. We paddled northward then crossed over to Point Nowell and camped. We saw a few sea otters last night but there were none this morning as we paddled northward. This is quite a contrast to all the otters we saw the previous day south of here. I wonder if the northern part of Knight Island has not recovered well from the Exxon spill. The water is clear and we can see the sea weeds but not much other marine life. No kayakers today. Commercial fishing has started along this part of the coast but they stopped fishing in the evening.
July 16. The day was cloudy with light winds and seas. The commercial fishing started up again in the morning and went late into the night. We paddled to Foul Bay, The campsite we like on the northern side of Foul Bay was taken so camped at the southern side. This campsite is completely isolated from the ocean by reefs at low tide.
A set-netter gave us a red salmon that had a seal bite on the gill cover. We cooked it for supper and had a great feast. We saw a few otters but no kayakers on the water. We had some bugs on the beach but they are manageable.
July 17. The day was misty with low clouds with calm seas. We paddled through a gauntlet of fishing boats near Lighthouse Point. Paddled up Culross Passage and saw two kayakers in there. We continued to Surprise Cove but that campsite was full of motor boaters. We camped on a big beach with great campsites a mile north. This site has northern exposure. We had a long (23 mile) day but we were trying to get to Whittier before the weather went bad on Sunday.
July 18. It was a drizzly morning. We had up the tarp and ate under it. The final 4 hours of paddling into Whittier harbor was uneventful. We did see a large group of kayaks at Decision Point and another group along Passage Canal.
We covered 155 miles with some great weather and calm seas. This allowed us to explore areas near the outside coast that we could only visit with calm seas. Weíve never seen so much wildlife on one paddle trip.
I have other trip reports and general information about paddling in Prince William Sound on my blog at princewilliamsoundseakayaking.blogspot.com
Edited by Jim (09/09/09 04:25 PM)