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Kayaking the wilderness waterways of southern Alaska.

Kayaking the protected waters of southeastern Alaska is an increasingly popular way to explore the state's wilderness waterways. Paddlers on guided and independent trips explore Glacier Bay and Misty Fiords; others go through island-crowded narrows off Sitka and Ketchikan.

Guided trips are usually geared toward novices. You can join for several days or paddle for only a few hours, perhaps during a cruise ship stopover.

This summer, the plentiful wildlife in these sheltered areas seems even more remarkably abundant in contrast with the devastation resulting from the recent oil spill in Prince William Sound (nearly 500 miles to the northwest). Bald eagles fly by; seals, dolphins, and humpback and killer whales are commonly seen; more

rare are bear, moose, and puffins.

On some outings, you paddle past giant glaciers and soaring coastal mountains; on others, you mosey along narrow inlets fringed by dense forests.

Here we list kayak tour and rental firms in southeastern Alaska. Each can send you brochures, equipment lists, and other information on Alaska paddling.

Rental rate for a single-cockpit kayak is about $30 a day. The cost of a multiday guided tour ranges ftom $105 to $200 per day; on these, your price includes kayak, camping gear (except sleeping bag), and food and possibly excursion boat or floatplane drop-offs or pickups.

The season begins now and runs through mid-September in Glacier Bay, through October in the Ketchikan and Sitka areas. Reserve rental kayaks early particularly for Glacier Bay. Some kayakers planning to use the Alaska Marine Highway ferries (they carry passengers' kayaks for free) reserve their ferry tickets as early as Christmas.

Alaska weather is notoriously fickle; bring good camping equipment and rain gear (up to 20 inches of rain can fall in the summer season). Water temperature is in the mid-40s. Knee-high rubber boots are a must for getting in and out of kayaks and walking on mucky shores.

For ferry rates and schedules, write or call Alaska Marine Highway System, Box R, Juneau 99811; (800) 642-0066. For more on the wilderness areas of Alaska, see page 120 in the May 1988 Sunset.

Juneau: Gastineau Channel, Mendenhall Peninsula, Glacier Bay National Park You can rent kayaks in Juneau for day paddles in the Gastineau Channel and Auke Bay, along the Mendenhall Peninsula, and to Spuhn Island. But the highlight of the area is Glacier Bay National Park, around 60 air miles northwest.

Fringed by the snow-crested Fairweather and Saint Elias mountain ranges, Glacier Bay boasts 16 tidewater glaciers and abundant animal and bird life.

Rentals are available at park headquarters at Bartlett Cove and in Juneau. And one firm offers guided kayak tours.

Most kayakers tour Glacier Bay's West Arm. A ranger at park headquarters gives a daily orientation (also for backpackers) on tides, navigation, and bears.

Lodging and camping are available at the park; there are several inns in Gustavus, nearest town to headquarters. For park information, write or call Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus 99826; (907) 697-2230.

Daily flights between Juneau and Gustavus are offered by Alaska Airlines (800/426-0333), $94 round trip; Glacier Bay Airways (907/697-2249), $95; and LAB Airlines (907/789-9160), $94. A shuttle bus ($7.50 one way) brings you to park headquarters, 9 miles away.

Sightseeing boat. The Gold Rush (a sightseeing boat replacing 1988's shuttle boat, Spirit of Adventure) offers daily tours from park headquarters into the West Arm. Kayakers and backpackers are dropped at one of three sites, then retrieved at a prearranged date and time. Round-trip fee is $158.50, including kayak and pickup, half-price for children under 12; one-way fee with drop-off is $93.50. Reservations: Glacier Bay Lodge, 523 Pine St., Suite 203, Seattle 98101; or call (800) 622-2042.

Alaska Discovery, 369 S. Franklin St., Juneau 99801; (907) 586-1911. Four-day ($800) and seven-day ($1,100) outings begin with a floatplane ride from Juneau to Gustavus. From park headquarters, you take the charter boat into the bay to start your expedition. A floatplane brings you back to Juneau. Kayak rentals: singles, $30 per day; doubles, $35. Two-day overnight classes cost $100, including boat rental.

Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks, Box 26, Gustavus 99826; 697-2257. Double kayak rental is $40 for one to three days. Paddlers can take day trips on their own around Bartlett Cove or in the nearby Beardslee Islands, or spend three or four days in the bay's West Arm. A one-way drop-off in the West Arm and paddle back to park headquarters takes 9 or 10 days. Everyone must take a 2-hour lesson (included in rental cost) before the trip.

Spirit Walker Expeditions, Box 122, Gustavus 99826; 697-2266. Guided day trip, Gustavus to Pleasant Island, is $70; 2-day trip to Point Adolphus, $195; 4-day trip to Icy Straits, $555; 8-day trip to Russel Fjord, $1,000; 8-day trip to Chichagof Island, $925.

Sitka: day and overnight trips

Baidarka Boats, Box 6001, Sitka 99835; 747-8996. Rental kayaks only, for day and overnight trips to numerous small islands and calm inlets near Sitka's waterfront. Singles, $18 half-day, $25 full day, $18 each additional day; doubles, $25, $35, $25; folding doubles, $45 day, $30 additional day. One-hour lesson required for novices ($25 for up to four persons).

Ketchikan: Misty Fiords National Monument, Prince of Wales Island

Access to Misty Fiords National Monument, Prince of Wales Island, and a vivid waterfront scene are popular attractions for paddlers in this area.

Southeast Exposure, Box 9143, Ketchikan 99901; 225-8829. Half-day guided tours (kayak provided) go past Saxman totem park and colorful fishing boats, into historic Creek Street, and to other sights along Tongass Narrows: $50 adults, $25 ages 12 to 16 (with adult). Day-long trip ($60 and $35) heads to nearby inlets and islands. All-ages rate for guided all-kayak trip to Misty Fiords National Monument: 4 days, $420; 6 days, $580; 10 days, $800. Combination excursion yacht and kayak trips are 3 days for $380, 6 days for $675. Kayak Alaska, 407 Stedman St., Ketchikan 99901; 225-1736. Waterfront tour (2-1/2 hours), $30. Half-day tour to Saxman, Tlingit gravesites, $35. Misty Fiords tour, four to seven days, $150 per day. Singles rent for $20 a day, $25 overnight; doubles, $30 and $35.

Three books. For more on southeast Alaska and kayaking, try one of these books from Globe Pequot Press, 138 W. Main St., Chester, Conn. 06412: Alaska's Southeast, by Sarah Eppenbach, 1988, $11.95; The Coastal Kayaker by Randel Washburne, 1985, $10.95; and Sea Kayaking, by Derek Hutchinson, 1985; $12.95.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1989
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