By Ann Burgess
Misty Fjords may well be the most pristine area in Alaska that you are ever to find easily accessible from a cruise post. To journey to this area is see up close and personally an area carved by the movements of glaciers over the last 25,000 years. In 1978, over 2 million acres within the Tongass National Forest was designated as Mistry Fjords National Monument. By attaining this status, Misty Fjords will be protected for generations to come.
Geologically speaking , and I quote from “The Geography of Southeast Alaska” by Harold H. Stowell: “Southeast Alaska was shaped by the advance and retreat of glacial ice, which at various times covered most of the region. Thick ice sheets carved mountainous island and high ridge of coastal mountains on the mainland, during the last seven million years of earth history. Between 1.8 million and ten thousand years ago, a period geologists call the Pleistocene Epoch, extensive glaciation occurred in much of North America. The most recent retreat of the ice that covered most of Southeast Alaska as recently as fourteen thousand years ago left the dramatic, mountainous islands that provide stunning evidence of the power of ice to carve solid rock. Today, all that remains of the vast continental ice sheet are relatively small alpine glaciers.”
This area has been established and inhabited for nearly 10,000 years, at various times hosting he Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Tribes. The nutrient rich marine and fresh water environments have created near perfect conditions for several varieties of salmon, a mainstay of the tribe’s diet. Sitka black-tailed deer, brown and black bears, wolves, mountain goats, martens and otters have supplied the tribes with both food and clothing. The wildlife you are most likely to see on your cruise will be whales, either Humpback or Orca, harbor seals and Steller sea lions, and bald eagles perched in the trees.
Allen Marine runs an excellent shore excursion from Ketchikan to Misty Fjords, it is almost 4 hours in length and will take you along the Revilleagigedo Channel to the Behm Canal, where you will see the New Eddystone Rock, an immense volcanic spire rising from the sea. You will spend some unhurried time in Rudyerd Bay, an area of vertical cliff rising to nearly 3,000 ft. and filled with an amazing number of waterfalls, large and small. It was Captain George Vancouver in 1793 who would be among the first to explore this pristine area, but not the last.
Weather is never predictable or reliable in Alaska so make sure you dress in layers, with the topmost one being waterproof. When I am on the water, be it for the fjords or a whale watch, I always make sure I have gloves and a hat.
By Ann Burgess
Geology of Southeast Alaska, Rock and Ice in Motion
By Harold H. Stowell
This highly readable geology book will introduce you to the very complex geological systems at play in Alaska and greatly enhance your understanding of the coastal area.