Paddling in Alaska


I want to take an extended kayaking trip to alaska next spring to early summer. Can anyone please advise or give any tips on where I could go, and what I could expect. I use to be a flat water kayak and canoe racer, along with some open ocean surf ski distance races. I’m new to the world of touring, and really serious on touring some of Alaska’s coastline. If anyone can recommend trips or routes… any info would be appreciated.


Check with these guys

We just returned from Alaska

– Last Updated: Sep-02-04 2:12 PM EST –

If you are interested we have some pictures posted from our trip.
There are lots of places to paddle but what I recommend are the various fjords. We did Northwestern Fjord and it was wonderful. The outfitters we chose were excellent (I don't have there names here at work but if you are interested send me an email and I will give you details). One problem you will encounter almost everywhere is that they will try to talk you into paddling a double. Be persistent and you will get a single.

Backcountry Safaris
does excellent tours in Aialik Bay of Kenai Fjords. They do trips up to seven days long, provide single kayaks (CD Storms)(make sure you specify that you want a single), cook all the food (plenty to eat and nice meals) and provide drysuits. Aialik Bay is gorgeous with tons of wildlife and calving glaciers, it is true wilderness. The distances paddled each day are not long, but that’s not what this sort of paddling is all about. I went at the end of June, so we got to paddle twice a day with 20 hours of daylight. I got all the paddling I needed. Bug jacket and pants recommended.

Aialik Bay is beautiful
It would be an excellent choice. It is larger than Northwestern and attracts more tour boats but is a truly great place to paddle.

We paddled all over Alaska…
for four months last summer.

If you want to see some pictures check out-

If you want a copy of our trip report which covers a bunch of places where we paddled as well as hiked and biked, let me know and I will e-mail it to you.



paddling in Alaska

I would love to see what other paddlers like yourself have done. A trip report would really help me out.

Thank you,


It is sent…
I hope you enjoy it.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask



Kodiak Island…
I visited Kodiak Island in mid-August and submitted a trip report but it hasn’t been posted yet. Here is a copy of the text (with a link to a few pics) of the trip report:

The Kodiak Island Archipelago, located approximately 250 miles southwest of Anchorage, is Alaska’s emerald isle. It is a beautiful place providing great opportunity to kayak, hike, fish, and observe wildlife. A significant portion of Kodiak Island is a National Wildlife Refuge and home to the Kodiak Brown Bear. The Kodiak bear can weigh up to 1500 lbs and is the largest land based carnivore.

Kodiak Island is culturally diverse with native Alutiit (Aleut), Russian, and Scandinavian influences. Kodiak Island has been home to the Alutiit people for more than 7500 years.

Kodiak Island has the 3rd largest fishing port in the USA, and, the largest Coast Guard Station which is located just south of Kodiak on Women’s Bay.

I visited Kodiak Island in mid-August. The weather was very nice with daytime temperatures ranging from 65 to 70 degrees F. I believe the water temperature was approximately 56 degrees F. At this time of year the days are long with the sun setting around 22:15. During the few days I was there I hiked excellent trails on Near Island and was able to take a half-day kayak trip with Kodiak Kayak Tours. The hiking trails at the north end of Near Island are well maintained and provide a sense of the beauty of the Kodiak wilderness. Salmon berries and Russian berries grow wild and can be picked and eaten along the trail.

The kayak trip was a leisurely paddle around several islands. The putin/takeout was St Paul Harbor in Kodiak. We paddled approximately 6 miles in about 4 hours. The outfitter typically wants you to paddle in a tandem but they let me paddle a single Aquaterra Sea Lion. I also lucked out on this trip, as I was the only one out with my guide, Gidget. Although 6 miles in 4 hours might seem incredibly slow, it was really nice to take the time to see the beautiful island shorelines from the water and observe wildlife. Kodiak actually has 2 harbors – St Paul Harbor at Kodiak, and St Herman’s Harbor on Near Island. Near Island is adjacent to Kodiak and can be accessed by boat or bridge. At one time, the harbors had problems with Steller Sea Lions getting on the docks and even in some boats, so Kodiak built the Sea Lions a long dock for them to haul out. Our first stop heading out was the Sea Lions dock where there must have been 30-40 Sea Lions lounging around. The Steller Sea Lions are very large – an average male weighs more than 1200lbs! The Steller Sea Lions are endangered, so it was remarkable to see so many.

As we made our way around the islands, Gidget pointed out many species of birds including Black-legged Kittewakes, Puffins – both horned and tufted, Cormorants, and Bald Eagles. The Puffins are really interesting because they fly in the air and under water, and, when they eat too much they can’t become airborne – they try but just skitter across the water. We also observed a Sea Otter in the kelp beds on the open water side of Popof Island. The water was clear and I could also see jellyfish. The beautiful scenery, the clear/clean water, and the cleanliness of the 2 harbors impressed me.

Based on what I saw and experienced, I think Kodiak Island is a great destination to explore by kayak with almost unlimited options for easy day trips to difficult extended tours. On extended tours you need to be prepared for sudden changes in weather and sea conditions. Heavy fog is also very common there. You should have a handheld marine VHF radio with you whenever you’re on the water there.

In addition to the wildlife I observed while on the water, I also saw huge numbers of salmon run in the rivers and saw Bison near Pasaghak. Here is a link to a few photos taken with my Olympus D510Z digital camera – look in the Kodiak Island album:

Regarding the Kodiak bear, I didn’t see any but I heard a couple of them visited the Buskin River Inn about 3-4 miles from Kodiak. Apparently that is rare because the bears generally stay in the remote parts of the island. Kodiak is a land of plenty for the bears, so I understand why they typically don’t visit inhabited areas. There are several Flightseeing charter businesses in Kodiak that fly floatplanes into remote places for bear viewing, and, I heard it is well worth the money to go on one of those trips.

Getting There:

Getting to Kodiak Island is fairly easy. Basically you can fly in as I did – I flew in on a prop plane and out on a 737 to Anchorage. Or you can take a ferry from either Seward or Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. In summer, the ferry runs a regular schedule but not every day so you need to plan accordingly. If I was in Alaska with a car, I think I’d drive to Homer and then take the ferry without the car. The ferry fare right now is less than half that for flying and you can bring your kayak for around $10. You can rent a car in Kodiak but there is only about 100 miles of road on Kodiak Island. If I was in Alaska without a car, I would take the scenic Alaska railroad to Seward and then take the ferry, but I’m not sure if the train can accommodate a hard-shell kayak. Whatever you do if you aren’t signed-up for a trip with an outfitter, you must bring a kayak, as you can’t rent one right now on Kodiak. I found out the hard way. Luckily, I got to at least take the half-day trip with Kodiak Kayak Tours. I should also point out that you can buy a kayak there but I would check availability with the Kodiak sporting good stores that sell them. I also think taking an inflatable or folding kayak makes a lot of sense as you will be able to take it with you on the airline.


Staying at Kodiak - there are lots of choices for accommodations including motels, lodges, B&Bs, and campgrounds. There is also a walmart there. There are lots of restaurants too. I loved Henrys where the fish & chips are world class – large pieces of fresh halibut. The salmon is great too. I also discovered Alaska Amber in a frozen glass with the fish & chips is a great combination! You can get excellent smoked salmon at several places too. Also don’t expect your cell phone to work in Kodiak. Apparently Kodiak has a service that you must be a subscriber of, but hopefully a 911 call would be answered. Bring a calling card with you as a backup and have a marine VHF handheld radio with you out on the water.

Here are a few web links for additional information:

Library time
I went to the library AFTER my Alaska trip and found a large selection, in just one branch, of books with enticing photos and descriptions. Start perusing these to find out what you most want in terms of scenery and local features. I assume you mean ocean paddling, but Alaska also has freshwater paddling.

Also, buy a copy of the DeLorme atlas for Alaska, in case you want to drive either to get there or in selected smaller areas. This must be the only DeLorme U.S. atlas that shows more roadless country than roaded!

Check out the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) system’s routes and schedules for more info that could determine where you paddle.

I was in a group of 4 that paddled from Ketchikan to Skagway, up the northern part of the Inside Passage. Being a relatively sheltered route, paddling conditions were usually mild. Note the word “usually.” In a month of paddling from Point A to Point B, weather happens. Fortunately, we were blessed with a long stretch of heat spell–sunny, dry, and hot. The only downside to the golden weather was that it brought out the horseflies (in great number), and the wind came out of the north (headwind).

I’ll return to Alaska for more paddling but really cannot say where the next trip will be specifically, there are so many beautiful choices.

As one who enjoys traveling alone as well as with others, I think the ultimate trip to Alaska would be a solo one. But for your first time, it would be safer to go with other people, not necessarily a “guided” commercial trip. And yeah, make sure you state that you want a single kayak if that’s the case; some outfitters seem to assume everybody wants doubles. Some of them ONLY have doubles.