Kayaking at Columbia Glacier, Valdez, Alaska

Latitude 61.12538°N Longitude 146.35499°W

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

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To our great shock and delight, we awoke to a bright blue sunny day without a single cloud in the sky, our first in almost a week of constant rain. We immediately decided to take advantage of it and go kayaking in Prince William Sound to the Columbia Glacier, the second largest tidewater glacier in Alaska.

We drove to the dock area and negotiated the day's activity with Anadyr Adventures. The plan would involve a 90 minute water taxi ride to Columbia Bay, then dropping in the kayaks and paddling from there! Our group included Mary and Clem, who had their own kayak, and another couple we were dropping off who were going to kayak and camp out in the sound for 7 nights. Mary and Clem were a pretty fun couple who were touring around Alaska in their RV & kayak.

It was a long and awesome day. Columbia Glacier has been rapidly receding and the closest you can get to the face with boat or kayak is about 7 miles. We paddled with our guide through a sea of icebergs until we could go no further - all the narrowing, maze-like passages we followed ended up being blocked by great interlocking chunks of ice. Even at this distance from the face, the glacier was impressive, as was the huge amount of ice that it continuously calved into the bay. However, it too far away to see icebergs actually calving off the face. Our guide said that another glacier tour out of Valdez, to Shoup Glacier, would have been better to see icebergs calving off the face.

We ate lunch atop a small island, surrounded by icebergs. In the afternoon we did more paddling, but it was in a different part of the bay and not among the icebergs, which kind of disappointed us. We could have easily spent the whole day with the icebergs. We guessed that the kayaking company - for liability reasons - did not want customers to spend too much time near the icebergs as they could break apart or tip at any time - pretty dangerous really. Dangerous or not, we still wanted to do it!

Back in Valdez, we took a drive to the Trans Alaskan Pipeline Terminal, hoping for a tour, but were turned away by armed guards with a serious lack of sense of humour - since 9/11 the entire vicinity of the terminal was made into a top security zone.

After dinner that night, we were invited over to Mary and Clem's RV (they were staying at Bear Paw too) to enjoy a glass of wine over sunset in the bay. It was a great ending to a great day.

Photos: (click on images to see full size)

Preparing to set off from ValdezApproaching the Columbia GlacierPaddling in a sea of icebergsA beautiful ice sculpture melting rapidly in the sunThe calving face of Columbia Glacier was some 7 miles away,
and we could not kayak any closer than thisAt low tide icebegs get stranded on the rocky beaches
Trying not to get lost in the mazeComing perilously close to the ice to get a better look

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