Day 42 - Monday - July 7 - Wrangell to Frederick Sound

I could not launch early today for two reasons. I had to pick up my food box from the post office, which meant waiting for it to open. The other reason was that early on today’s route I would have to traverse the shallow sand flats of the Stikine River Delta. Since many areas along this route are only a few inches deep, it is only possible to transit them on a rising or high tide. Even a kayak can run aground in these shallows and become stuck. This meant planning my departure so as not to be stuck on a sand flat during a falling tide. This might not sound like a big deal until you realize you could be stuck for six or more hours surrounded by soggy sand with no way to move until the next high tide arrives. Low tide today was -1.3 feet at 10:30am and high tide was 15.6 feet at 5:15pm. This was a 17-foot difference in less than seven hours.

Kadin Island is straight ahead as I launch from Wrangell.

After getting all my gear down to the waters edge, I packed up the boat and was launching at 10:30am and heading across the mouth of the Stikine River toward Kadin Island. I reached the southern tip of Kadin at 12:10pm and headed northwest toward the northern tip of Rynda Island. The chart showed shallow water in this area and I thought since it was two hours into a rising tide I could make it across. The Stikine River makes the water a muddy brown and you cannot see the bottom like most other places along the route. Because of this, you cannot tell how deep the water is until your paddle touches bottom.

The valley of the Stikine River cuts through the coast range.

About a half mile from Kadin Island, I ran aground but managed to back out and find a deeper passage. I ended up heading south and going all the way to Greys Island where the chart showed greater water depths. I was then able to follow the Coast of Rynda Island and make my way through Dry Strait with no more problems as the water continued to rise.

Paddling through Dry Strait.

Halfway through Dry Strait I could see a large flock of what looked like birds swirling and undulating in the air over an exposed sand flat in the distance. As I approached, it became apparent that this was not a far off flock of birds, but a dense swarm of insects, possibly gnats, that were close by. I changed course to avoid them but a few found their way to me and alighted on the deck of my kayak covering it with hundreds of their creepy little bodies. Luckily, they were not in a biting mood and I made it through the area with no problem. This did prompt me however to move my mosquito head net from inside the kayak to a place in my deck bag for the rest of the trip.

Icebergs floating in Frederick Sound after drifting out of LeConte Bay.

As I made my way along the shoreline of Mitkof Island I was entering the lower stretches of Frederick Sound with LeConte Bay directly across in the distance. Icebergs that had calved off the LeConte Glacier were making their way out into Frederick Sound giving me my first views of floating ice on the trip.

Looking back on Dry Strait and Coney Island from my campsite on Frederick Sound.

Although the Mitkof Island shoreline is covered with sand beaches, they are all shallow and most would not be protected from high tides. As I searched the shoreline looking for a decent place to make camp, I kept seeing Black Bears, three in all, over a distance of about five miles. This was not looking good.

My campsite on the wooden float in Frederick Sound.

At 6:30pm, after paddling 26 miles, I came across a large wooden float or dock that had washed up on the beach and was sitting almost level. This turned out to be an incredible find and provided a perfect spot to camp. I was able to sit back and watch as icebergs and bergy-bits floated by in Frederick Sound all evening. As I was setting up camp, I spotted a baby Black Bear feeding in the grass about 100 feet away. Luckily mom-ma bear was nowhere around. Occasionally throughout the evening, it would call out with a sound almost like a cow calf, apparently trying to make contact with its lost mother.