It was a rainy morning in Wrangell as we boarded a jet boat run by Alaska Peak & Seas for our tour of the LeConte Glacier. Our captain for the day was Mark -the owner of the company- accompanied by his daughter, Erin. We cruised out onto the flat calm water of Dry Strait unsure of how much we’d see through the gray drizzle. Our eyes were fixed to the depth reader onboard as it dropped from 10ft to 6ft to 2ft! Dry Strait is heavily influenced by the constantly shifting Stikine River Delta. The mighty Stikine river deposits its sediment in the water here when it meets the sea. This passage is much too shallow for our vessels to travel through, even at high tide, so it was fun to be aboard the zippy, flat bottomed jet boat to see the area.
The first signs of the nearby glacier were massive chunks of ice on the horizon. The ancient terminal moraine of the LeConte Glacier creates a shallow berm that the large bergs can’t cross, instead they pile at the entrance of the fjord. The ice in the water grew thicker the further into the inlet we went, and the hillsides steepened and narrowed. We started off surrounded by the familiar rounded, forested mountains typical of the Inside Passage. The further we went the mountains steepened until we were surrounded by sheer granite cliffs. Mark expertly zoomed us through the ice flows, dodging left and right.
Once the ice thickened up further, we slowed to a crawl and somewhat nervously listened to the loud crunches and clangs of ice against the hull. We continued to push our way forward into the ice until the full face of the glacier came into view. What a spectacular sight! The deep blue of the glacial ice was stunning. Mark killed the engine and we sat and listened to the rumbles of the glacier and watched for calving events. From our distance, the ice falls looked small in comparison to the expansive scenery, but we still were rocked by 3ft swell from the splashes.
On the ride home, we stopped to admire some of the larger bergs. The sea, rain and wind had eroded them into fantastic shapes, and we had fun spotting different forms in the ice – elephant, dragon, rhino, dog! Erin even pulled some chunks of glacial ice out of the water for us to take home as a souvenir for our evening beverages. We also spied a couple of black bears on the beach, but they darted off quickly into the woods at our approach. All in all it was a great day on the water, and a beautiful place that we will not forget.
By the sound of it, the crews of Exact and Thea also had a great time exploring Wrangell further and getting in a little more time fishing. It was nice to all be on the dock together and be able to easily chat and catch up with the other crews. After visiting for a while, we all went back to our own boats for dinner. Later we were treated to a brilliant pink and orange sunset as the sun finally broke through the layer of cloud that had been hanging around through the day. With the water reflecting the rich colors, it was as if the whole world had turned to rose gold.
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