Jul 18

Kayaking in Aialik bay

Category: Alaska,Travel

two weeks ago I went kayaking in Aialik bay, in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords national park.  I was supposed to go for three days, but a big storm washed those plans away.  Still, I was able to go for a single fantastic day. I left from Seward, where I used the services of Miller’s landing, a campground and adventure guide service that rents kayaks and provides water taxi service.  They have some backpacker’s “cabins” that are the most reasonable accommodations in the area, at $50/night, although they are basically glorified sheds with beds and heaters – not for those who require amenities of any sort. The Seward region is absolutely beautiful; the town sits on Resurrection bay, which is surrounded by typically gorgeous Alaskan mountains. Otters frolic in the bay and you are guaranteed to see a least one if you spend 15 minutes walking by the water.

All of the water in this region has a spectacular color caused by the particulates from glacial streams. When the sun hits it, it is an incredible aqua color.

The real fun began early in the AM the next day, when we boarded the water taxi for Aialik bay. On the way out, we passed small, rugged islands where sea lions lounged, and where a humpback whale appeared to be scratching itself on rocks – something I’ve never seen before. Here you can see a fin sticking out of the water between the rocks:

Otters were everywhere, and occasionally, seals would surface and observe me; some Dall’s porpoises were playing in the bow wave of the water taxi that ferries kayaks out to the bay from Seward. It rained constantly and the approaching storm made it heavily overcast; the temperature was in the 50s.

We got close to the Aialik and Pederson glaciers; at Pederson we saw an apartment-sized portion of glacier calving into the bay. I didn’t get it on camera, but with a fusillade of thundering cracks it fell off of the glacier, found its buoyancy and rose to twice the height of the glacier’s top, and then disintegrated and collapsed into the water, causing the millions of fragments of floating ice already in the bay to engage in a grumbling commentary as they rubbed against each other.


For miles in front of a glacier, there is a sea of scattered ice debris.

The glacier itsefl – this one is Aialik – is an imposing wall whose scale is difficult to represent because of a lack of objects for comparison.  I’d say it’s about 200 feet tall and 3/4 mile wide.  It constantly creaks, cracks, and groans, and every 10 minutes or so, there is a shower of ice that sloughs off and splashes into the water.


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