Leaving Bottleneck Bay, the sun was peeking through the morning mist, and we were greeted by a moment of sheer awe. The rolling mountains of granite flanking our cruising channels never cease to remind us of just how incredible it is to be spending our days tucked into these protected inlets. Making our way into Graham Reach, the many major islands surrounding us were dusted with vivid greens and brief golds as the rising sun chased away the grey.
British Columbia is made up of four different geological “belts” and each are composed of vastly different minerals. As we explore the inside passage along the western edge of Canada, we are observing the environmental make up of what is known as the Coast Belt. This belt was the single largest outpouring of granite and granodiorite during the formation of our current geologic eon and contains fragments of both geological belts on either side of this coastal terrane. The most classic black and white rock seen throughout our trip is known as Granodiorite and is made up of 40% quartz. With such impenetrable mountainsides, vegetation isn’t often existing in much soil and it’s incredibly common to see exposed granodiorite and sections of forests having been washed out from weather.
Entering Aaltanhash inlet after 40 nautical miles, we rafted and anchored our vessels, situating close to a scenic river mouth. The meeting of the river to the oceanside made for a beautifully fluxing waterfall that grew and shrank with the tides. Once settled and ready to explore, a group of us dinghied into shore and followed alongside a river that was fed by Dome Lake. The shorelines were home to some stunning wildflowers, and our eyes immediately caught the fields of Chocolate Lilies, and very vibrant purple Arctic Lupines.
Exploring the tidal flats, we came across recent signs of bear activity and discussed the tactics in how to recognize the prints and markings for an ability to decern the timeline in these visitations. Bears will take advantage of foraging in the sandy intertidal areas for the lush grasses, abundant calms and muscles, and sometimes even the little critters that utilize these nutritional offerings for their own springtime survival.
Alongside the river we found extremely healthy budding Salmon Berries, Sword Ferns, and the occasional Devil’s Club, among other brush. Keeping our eyes on our choice of steps, we wanted to not only prioritize our own safety, but also our impact on respecting the environment and its ability to flourish. Trekking on the riverbeds, we spotted salmon fry tucked in the slower moving waters under shading cedars and low hanging mosses, making for a beautiful and peaceful find.
Back at the shoreline our eyes caught the tide rising onto the dried mudflats, creeping its way into each crack and crevice with an intriguing rate.
When a large input of a river system meets the ocean, estuaries can form, and offer both flora and fauna solace in one of the most productive natural environments. As nutrients are deposited from alpine freshwater runoff and these oxygen rich waters mix with the dense network of marine microorganisms, these waters are extremely efficient in extracting, recycling, and conserving nutrients. Both large and small estuaries are considered rare in British Columbia, making up 2.3% of the tidelines. It’s estimated that there are only 434 estuaries, both large and small, present in over 185,000 acres of coastline.
Adventuring back to our vessels the explorations didn’t stop, only shifted. Kayaks were deployed and dinghies were in the water for fishing, crabbing, sightseeing, and traversing crew across the expansive inlet. Aaltanhash has been one of the most beautiful spots we’ve tucking into for our evening aboard, and one that was jotted down in everyone’s books for a future visitation. Tomorrow, we cruise into Bishop Bay Hot Springs and as we clean up and snuggle in for the night we are all buzzing with excitement for a warm soak.
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