The scenic waterway reaches 1,000 miles from beautiful British Columbia to historic Skagway, Alaska. As you cruise through a maze of bays, straits, arms and fjords, you'll cruise past an ever-changing panorama of unspoiled beauty . . . cascading waterfalls, virgin forests, majestic glacier-carved fjords, and some of the friendliest little towns in the world: Inside Passage, Juneau, and Skagway.
Stretching from the Canadian border in the South, to the start of the Gulf of Alaska in the North, the Inside Passage runs through the area known as Southeast Alaska, just below Glacier Bay National Park. No matter what time of the summer you choose to cruise, one can expect to see spectacular scenery, bountiful wildlife, picturesque Native cultures, amazing history, and exceptional hospitality.
Part of the Pacific Rim coastal temperate rain forest, Misty Fjords is an unspoiled wilderness area overflowing with amazing geological features such as fjords, steep sea cliffs, active glaciers, and natural canals. President Carter proclaimed it a National Monument in 1978, and in 1980 Congress designated most of this land as wilderness - land retaining its primeval character, land affected primarily by the forces of nature.
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Inside Passage Attractions
Misty Fjords National Monument
In the southernmost reaches of Southeast Alaska, a captivating, complex natural system of land forms covers 2.1 million acres, the largest wilderness in Alaska's National Forests. Located on the Tongass National Forest, this rugged land offers rich and fertile marine and freshwater environments and mountainous and coastal ecosystems that reveal thousands of years of nature's forces.
The magnificent landscape at Misty Fjords National Monument was fashioned by thousands of years of glaciation and other earth processes. The one-of-a-kind features of Misty Fjords were created by moving snow and ice, volcanoes, and wave action. Other than in a few places where evidence of Tlingit and Haida Indian societies and of early American occupation can be found, there are few marks of humanity apparent to the casual visitor in Misty Fjords.
Located in the Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier rates as one of Alaska's most massive glaciers. As you get nearer the glacier, you see a massive white formation that seems almost as big as the mountains that surround it. This is Sawyer Glacier, wedged at the end of Tracy Arm, an iridescent blue mass of centuries-old ice. As you gaze upon it in wonder, a loud cracking noise that seems to split the very air heralds the calving of a massive chunk of ice the size of a building.
Sawyer Glacier is one of the sights you'll see if you're visiting the Tracy Arm-Ford's Terror Wilderness. The two deep and narrow fjords in the area cover 653,179 acres. Both fjords, Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm, are over 30 miles long; and one-fifth of their area is covered in ice.
Located about 45 miles South of Juneau, Tracy Arm, is a classic fjord. The icebergs are framed by sheer mountain peaks that reach up to 7,000 feet. Waterfalls flow from the ice covered mountains to the jade colored inland sea.
Tracy Arm is the summer home for pigeon guillemots, kittiwakes, and arctic terns. Usually the mountain goats are seen on the rocky slopes near Sawyer Glacier.
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Inside Passage Wildlife
||The water around Sawyer Glacier is the habitat for a variety of marine life including whales. Smaller, but no less interesting are the harbor seals and porpoises, killer whales, and sea otters. An impressive list of other wildlife can be viewed at Sawyer Glacier including brown and black bears, deer, wolves, and moose. Mountain goats, which usually keep to higher ground, have been seen at much lower elevations.
If you see a disturbance in the waters of the Inside Passage, it is more likely to be a splashing orca or sea lion rather than rough waters. For the most part, the waters in the Inside Passage are calm and tranquil.
|Migrating whales, Dall porpoises, gray sided dolphins, sea lions, and salmon are some of the other sea creatures you may encounter. Also, keep your eyes skyward as the magnificent, soaring bald eagles are plentiful. The largest population of bald eagles in the world live along this coastline. Cast your eyes towards shore and you might just catch a glimpse of deer, or other land animals such as moose or bears. Some of the mammals you might see include Sitka black-tailed deer, black and brown bears, moose, mountain goats, wolves, and many smaller animals such as beaver, mink, marten, and both river and sea otters.
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Inside Passage History
In 1741, Russians Vitus Bering and Aleksi Cherikov "discovered" Alaska and its fur trade potential. British Captain James Cook explored the Alaskan Coast in 1778, seeking a Northwest Passage back to the Atlantic. The frustration and astonishment on the part of these 18th century explorers must have been something to see as they first encountered the confusing maze of islands and channels that make up the Inside Passage. Where these mysterious channels were leading the explorers was unknown. Encountering massive mountain ranges and virginal forests at the end of each and every fjord as the explorers followed them to the interior, they inevitably were stopped by a wall of ice as glaciers pushed their way to the sea.
In 1799, Aleksander Baranov established a Russian trading base at Sitka, and in 1867, Secretary of State William Seward bought Alaska from Czarist Russia for a mere two cents an acre; a total of $7.2 million in cost. By that time, the fur resource had been completely depleted; and the purchase of Alaska became widely known as "Seward's Folly". Naturalist John Muir canoed through Southeast Alaska and discovered Glacier Bay, which, 80 years earlier, when Captain George Vancouver passed through, was still covered in ice.
From 1896 to 1900, the discovery of gold on a Yukon River tributary sparked the Klondike Gold Rush, following quickly with thousands of miners flocking to the gold fields and Alaska, seeking their fortunes. The first Alaskan gold strike occurred along the Inside Passage. Even today, its communities retain that atmosphere of adventure and enterprise.
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