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Backpacker Magazine – February 1999

Alaska's Glaciers: Going With The Floes

When gently paddling amidst the mini-icebergs that grace Prince William Sound, you ponder one question: why walk?

by: Michele Morris


Expedition Planner

Kayaking Prince William Sound

Getting There: Whittier is the jumping-off point for all western Prince William Sound routes. Currently, the best way to get to the town is by the Alaska Railroad (907-265-2494). Round-trip fare is $49 per person. A controversial new road from Anchorage to Whittier is scheduled to be completed by 2000.

Permits: None are required for kayaking the Sound, but reservations, taken up to 180 days in advance, are required for Forest Service cabins in PWS and other Alaskan sea kayaking destinations. Cabins cost $25 to $45 per night and they go fast. Call toll-free (877) 444-6777, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Alaska time Labor Day through March 31; 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 1 through Labor Day. Or reserve via the Internet: http://www.reserveusa.com.

Maps: Trails Illustrated's Prince William Sound West #761 ($8.99; 800-962-1643) provides a good trip planning overview and cabin locations, but you'll need USGS 7.5-minute maps for navigating. The Anchorage A-4 and Seward D-4 and D-5 quads cover our route.

Season: You'll avoid rain as well as bugs from mid-May to early June.

Special Equipment: The Forest Service (see "Contact," below) can recommend local outfitters. We used the following: Kayak shuttle service: Gerry Sanger of Sound Eco Adventures; (888) 471-2312 or (907) 472-2312. A drop-off to Harriman Glacier cost us $441 for two double and two single kayaks and six people. Kayak rentals: Prince William Sound Kayak Center: (907) 276-7235. A double kayak rents for $275/week, a single is $190/week.

Special hazards: Carry extra food, rescue flares, and bear spray, and allow at least one extra day in case you're stranded by bad weather. Consider taking a marine radio. Camp and kayak at least a quarter mile away from any glacier, and give large floating icebergs a wide berth-they are highly unstable and can spin at any moment and capsize your boat.

Contact: Glacier Ranger District, Chugach National Forest, P.O. Box 129, Girdwood, AK 99587; (907) 783-3242.

-M. Morris




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