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Exploring Tracy Arm, Alaska

A Day Cruise From Juneau


A Guide to Juneau, Alaska

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it

    This photojournal is from a day trip made on September 5, 2004 from Juneau, Alaska. Having heard consistently positive reviews about Adventure Bound Alaska, 
we travelled with them on the 56-foot Adventure Bound. Leaving from downtown Juneau, this trip takes you deep into the mountain wilderness via one of North America's 
most dramatic fjords. 

This satellite image from Google Earth gives you an idea of what to expect in the fjord, but nothing can truly prepare you for it. The mouth of Tracy Arm is located at 57deg; 46' N., 133° 37' W., about 45 miles south of Juneau.
Heading south on Stephens Passage in a moderate chop and light rain at 9:10 a.m. The Adventure Bound handles the seas beautifully. This is the route that all cruise ships use when visiting Juneau.
We could see the brilliant colours of these icebergs from a couple of miles away. Cloudy days are much better than sunny ones for capturing the blues of the glaciers, which get washed out in bright sunlight. At the mouth of Tracy Arm and adjoining Endicott Arm are shoals - the submerged terminal moraines of the Sawyer and Dawes Glaciers - and many of the larger icebergs get trapped there. This photo was shot at 10:04 a.m.
The drama of Southeast Alaska is in many ways enhanced by what is usually considered "poor" weather. This is one of the creeks that run off Mount Sumdum, seen at 10:46 a.m.
Ten minutes later, we were playing in a waterfall. Most of us got wet to varying degrees and everyone loved doing it - yes, it sure was cold water! While some of the cruise ships do come into Tracy Arm, most don't even get within sight of the glaciers, much less offer an opportunity like this.
Half-way up the arm at 11:15 a.m. You quickly run out of superlatives and exclamations with constant scenes like this.

There is little traffic in Tracy Arm. By 11:25 a.m. we were getting into a fair bit of ice of all sizes that has been calved off the glaciers.
South Sawyer Glacier, Alaska Approaching the South Sawyer Glacier at 11:39 a.m.
South Sawyer Glacier, Alaska Right up to the face of the South Sawyer Glacier. Many harbor seals were on the floating ice, and we got quite close to a couple of them. This photo was shot at 11:55 a.m.
Waterfall in Tracy Arm There are countless waterfalls in Tracy Arm, but some along the narrow channel into the main (North) Sawyer Glacier were particularly impressive. This one is well over 100 feet high.
Sawyer Glacier, Alaska In front of the Sawyer Glacier at 1:37 p.m. There was some good calving while we were there, a couple of them giving the Adventure Bound a good rocking. The first one caused the captain to pull away from the face a fair bit! The boat in the foregound is the 120-foot Safari Quest, which takes 22 guests and 9 crew.
Kayakers in Tracy Arm, Alaska We picked up these kayakers, lashed the kayak onto the back of the Adventure Bound, and took them back to Juneau. They had been paddling around Tracy Arm for several days, but bad weather dampened more than just their camping gear. Once warmed up in the cabin, though, they had some good stories to tell.
Tracy Arm, Alaska Heading back towards open water at 2:08 p.m.
A calm, moody day - perfect for enjoying the cruise, photographing the play of light on the mountains and sea, and watching for whales. The photo was shot at 2:21 p.m.
Even though the trip isn't billed as a whale watching trip, we saw many humpback whales in Stephens Passage just north of the mouth of Tracy Arm, and the captain spent as much time with the whales as we wanted. Some whales came very close to our boat - within 50 feet. This photo was shot at 2:37 p.m. - although I have much closer shots, this one shows the mood of the afternoon better.