Tracy Arm Fjord Tour

If you find yourself in Juneau and you would really like to go on a glacier tour but the trip to Glacier Bay seems a bit pricey or you do not have the time, Tracy Arm is as good as, or even better than, the Glacier Bay Cruise.  It is run by the same company that runs the ferry between Juneau and Glacier Bay and the Icy Strait whale watching tour.  In fact, we even had the same crew for those tours.   When the wonders of the world committee decides to add its next wonder, I nominate this fjord as “the waterfalls wonder.”

The boat is called the “Teek,” a Tlingit word for Orca or killer whale.  The boat features two decks – a lower deck that is totally enclosed and an upper deck that is part enclosed and part open air.  There are several bathrooms onboard the Teek.  The crew serves a complimentary lunch of vegetarian chili or clam chowder.  Complimentary tea, coffee and hot cocoa are available during the entire trip as well.

The eight hour cruise costs $110 per person.  It leaves at 9 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m. every day of the week through the summer season (mid May until early October depending on the weather).   The tour leaves from the dock just behind the Goldbelt Tour Center.  To find it from the airport or ferry terminal, take a right on Egan Highway.  Watch for the Goldbelt Hotel on the left side of the Egan just after passing the small boat harbor.  The Goldbelt Tour Center is a gray building directly across the Egan from the Goldbelt Hotel on the harbor side.  Contact Auk Nu Tours for even more information and reservations.

During the tour a naturalist speaks about the history of the area as well as the geology and biota.  Our naturalist, Debbie, resides in the Juneau area and was actually raised in a small lodge just below the Taku glacier. She told us a number of interesting stories about growing up in southeast.  My favorite story was about her wedding.  Shortly after all the guests had left the lodge she went back out to use the outdoor “facilities.”  Two bears wandered into the yard and one started using the outhouse as a back scratcher.  When it finally looked like the two bears were on their way out of the yard, Debbie crept out of the outhouse and headed for the lodge.  But the bears caught wind of her, and chased her back into the outhouse.  A large part of her wedding evening was spent trapped in an outhouse by two large bears.

On this tour we had the pleasure of meeting Rick and Bev from Kansas.  Rick is a biology teacher at Shawnee Mission East High School, and Bev is the school nurse there.  They had been planning their adventure for about a year and were making their way along an impressive three week journey through southeast and the interior regions of Alaska.

The captain was an exceptionally experienced pilot and was able to maneuver the Teek into some pretty cool places.  At “hole in the wall falls” he brought the nose of the ship right into the falls themselves.  Those seated downstairs in the enclosed area got to see what the waterfall looked like from inside as he washed all the fore windows with the falls.  Later in the cruise he brought us into a tiny little cove allowing for up close and personal inspection of another falls from the open deck on the stern.  We also were close enough to marvel at the number of wildflowers that grow on the edges and crevices of the sheer rock walls that make up the fjord.

The boat enters the arm through an incredibly narrow channel of deep water.  Even though it is only 500 feet wide in spots, it is deep enough to allow a Holland America cruise ship to slip through.  At this point one begins to see the beautiful blue and white icebergs floating in the water or perched up on beaches or sand bars.  The cruise visits two tidewater glaciers, and both of them were calving while we were watching them.  The south Sawyer Glacier does not have much of a current to draw the ice away from the glacier.  This creates prime habitat for harbor seals to use as birthing grounds.  And there were thousands of them laying all over the icebergs.

The cliffs of the fjord run almost straight up into the clouds like stone walls carved by giants.  We visited the arm on a particularly rainy day.  Consequently, the cliffs were just blanketed by hundreds of waterfalls.  Pigeon Guillemots perched on ledges and fished in the amazing green water.  Eagles nested in the areas where the trees grew.  And on the way back into Juneau the captain spotted a humpback whale feeding.  He was able to circle around and cut the engines so we could all watch the whale blowing and diving.

Last Visited: July 2000



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