2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 4 Warm Springs to Red Bluff | NW Explorations


2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 4 Warm Springs to Red Bluff

More sun and minimal wind forecasted for our short trip south along the eastern coast of Baranof Island to Red Bluff Bay. This will be another outstanding destination and very different from Warm Springs but equally satisfying.

On our way south we see more massive snow-capped peaks with waterfalls cascading down from the mountain tops to the sea. Red Bluff is easy to spot as we get nearer and notice a point of land composed of red rock and few trees. It has not been logged; the few small trees have been stunted by the poor soil.  The entrance is not as easy to spot as it is a narrow opening with many small islands and a few rock piles that require we remain close together and pay attention. As we enter the narrow passage, we look above at sheer walls of rock with every inch covered in trees, shrubs, ferns, and flowers. It is surprising that trees can find purchase on these vertical walls!

As we venture further into the narrow fjord, we can see that we are entering into an area surrounded by high rugged snow-capped peaks that resemble a miniature version of the alps of Switzerland. The views are breath-taking and draw us in as we wonder what will be beyond the next bend. Eventually we round a corner, and it opens into a bay surrounded on all sides by huge mountains with large snow fields and waterfalls cascading down sheer treeless rock faces. The cove is completely enclosed in this magical place. As we prepare to form the raft, we notice a sea otter diving and returning to the surface with orange cockles that it places on its belly and uses a rock to break them open and devour them. As soon as it is finished, it dives down and repeats the entire process again and again. It is so adorable that it is hard to concentrate on docking the boats!

Once settled, a brown bear is noticed grazing in the sedge grass on shore so a few of us get into our kayaks and quietly paddle in to get a closer look. The bear is aware of our presence and often looks up after a mouthful of grass, but it seems unbothered by us as we quietly watch from the water. After observing the bear, we paddle over to the creek and pull our kayaks onto the far bank to take a brief look around. Massive trees lay like spilled toothpicks at the mouth of the stream; evidence of the awesome power of water that must flow at other times to deposit these trees. We remain alert for bears as we walk on the sand bar and notice bear prints. Then, we paddle out towards the waterfall that we passed on the way in. While paddling we see a couple shy harbor seals pop up to check us out.

The waterfall is hundreds of feet high and dwarfs the kayaks as they paddle near to get a closer look. Mist blows off the cascading water spraying us. On the way back to the boats, the sea otter is finished with lunch and is interested in paddling with us. This is unusual for an otter to be so comfortable with humans and we feel quite lucky to be able to observe it so closely. It swims alongside but not so close as to make any of us or the otter uncomfortable.

Upon return to the boat, other flotilla guests go out on their own adventures to observe the wildlife but there is really no need to leave the boat as wildlife is all around us. Eagles, ravens, king fishers, small murrelets among others surround us. Since we arrived relatively early, we have all of the afternoon and early evening to explore the area.

Rafting together allows us all to get to know each other better and as we mingle, share stories, and laugh together it adds to the shared experience.

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