Many of Alaska’s waterways are calm enough for kayakers of all levels. // © 2015 Christopher Batin
A tandem kayak is the best choice for those who want to take it easy, as one rider can paddle while the other rests. There are no heavy currents to fight in most waters in Alaska, and the kayak’s rudders help rowers steer around icy obstacles.
Summer Tourism Highlights in Alaska
Of all the day-tour options available in Alaska, sea kayaking is perhaps my favorite type of excursion. Unlike longer treks that may require 20 miles of paddling per day, kayaking day trips offer easy routes that visitors of all skill levels can handle, and they vary widely in price and sights seen. My top recommendations are those that highlight Alaska’s abundant wildlife and icebergs.
While kayaking among crystalline ice caps is almost always unforgettable, few destinations are better for the activity than Columbia Glacier, the state’s second-largest tidewater glacier. A tidewater glacier is formed when tons of ice break off and drift with the current before getting temporarily stranded on an outgoing tide.
Kayaking through a maze of ice that stretches for several miles can be a true challenge. Rowers will hear the hiss of escaping air, like that of an air hose at a gas station, as the melting ice releases air bubbles. The volume of audible sound created by so many bubbles is incredible.
To experience this quintessential Alaskan adventure, consider booking Pangea Adventures’ Columbia Glacier Kayak Day Tour. The 10-hour trip begins with general kayaking instruction at Valdez Harbor, from paddling strokes to emergency procedures. Basic guidelines are reviewed again on the two-hour water-taxi ride to Heather Island. On this portion of the journey, it’s common to see cascading waterfalls dropping from lofty mountain peaks, an orca breaching and plenty of sea otters, bald eagles and puffins.
Once in Heather Bay, the real paddling begins. Here, icebergs and floes form a 10-mile-long fjord, formed by the gradual retreat of the glacier itself. It’s an eerie icescape of frozen sentinels that groan, crackle and grind with the changing of each tide, and it’s a must-see sight for adventurous clients and nature buffs.
For those who prefer animals over ice, local operator Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking offers multiple excursions in Resurrection Bay. On the three-hour trip that begins at Lowell Point, rowers are likely to encounter seals basking in the sun, playful sea otters and swooping bald eagles. In the late summer, the group can paddle to Tonsina Creek to look for spawning salmon. Because this area is remote, travelers can expect to see lots of wildlife on just about every itinerary — and that means clients will return home happy.