In the morning we took a short walk at Blind River Rapids followed by a nice lunch at Coastal Cold Storage, but the big event of the day was a trip by boat to the LeConte Glacier Fjord. We had contacted Scott of Tongass Kayak Adventures to take us out to the fjord. He also offers whale watching trips and kayak adventures, but we were interested in a trip out to and up the fjord to see the glacier at the lowest latitude in the US that terminates in a saltwater bay.
The trip was all he promised and more. As we approached the bay we saw more and more icebergs floating in the bay. Some had the distinctive glacial blue color which Scott said indicated they had recently rolled, exposing ice that had not been exposed to the air. Further up the fjord we began to see harbor seals with their pups. When the seals are giving birth, they climb onto the bergs as it offers protection for them from the orcas. Most of the pups we saw were estimated to be 4-7 days old. There was still evidence on the icebergs that births had taken place as well as piles of fur that indicated deaths had taken place also.
The floating bits of ice (berger bits) got thicker and thicker as we moved further into the fjord. Scott said that occasionally he is unable to get close enough to see the glacier, but that was not the case today. Soon we were able to see the face of the glacier as it met the bay from about a mile away. As we sat and surveyed the 2000 foot high cliff walls we also saw the glacier calving. Even from this distance we could feel the wave in the water caused by so much ice falling into the bay. It is also remarkable that while the ocean temperature had been 53-degrees before we entered the bay, when we were near the glacier, the temperature dropped to 34-degrees.
On the way back we saw one of the huge icebergs break apart and roll over. Just as one enters the bay (which is generally 1000 feet deep), under the water there is a moraine left 3000 years ago where the water is only 40 feet deep. The big icebergs can get caught on this and as the tide goes down the berg will break up. It was quite a sight and can be quite dangerous if you are nearby in a small boat.
Also on the way back Scott spotted a humpback whale and we watched it swimming about catching its breath before we saw it make a deep dive with the classic tail flip. Our day was complete!
All in all, Scott gave us and two other passengers (a nurse who just started working at the local hospital and her mother who was visiting from Ohio) the tour we expected, and perhaps more. Our tour was made even more informative as one of Scott’s former kayak guides and her husband were visiting in town and were along for the ride. They too were extremely knowledgeable about the birds, wildlife, and ice.
The only disappointment of the day was to return to our campsite and find that someone had stolen our table and chairs we had left there. It’s the first time we have ever encountered that kind of dishonestly out in the woods.
Tongass Kayak Tours Review: This is currently a small operation – basically one man with a boat, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get first class service. Our tour was the half-day LeConte Glacier tour without the kayaking option, but he offers full-day and multiple-day tours as well. This is not a slick operation with a narrator at the microphone and multiple snacks served by a staff; this is Scott at the wheel telling you about what you are seeing and whatever he is thinking about. He is bright and knowledgeable which is what makes it great. He does serve snacks – he passed a bag of chocolate bars, and granola bars and dried fruit were available.