We do not want it to be true, but our week exploring the wilderness of Southeast Alaska has come to an end. This morning, National Geographic Quest anchored within Sitkoh Bay, on southern Chichagof Island, to conclude our expedition with hikes, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and Zodiac cruising.
Sitkoh Bay is one of my favorite locations in Southeast Alaska, because we have the ability to tell the story of the entire history of the area in this one bay. After the second invasion of Sitka by the Russians (1804) and the Survival March of the Sitka Tlingits across Baranof Island and Peril Strait, Sitkoh Bay served as their home. The Tlingits rebuilt, regrouped, and 18 years later managed to take their ancestral homeland in Sitka Sound back from the Russian invaders. Later that century and into the twentieth, Sitkoh Bay was the location of major logging operations as well as the Chatham Cannery that processed chum, pink, and silver salmon. In recent years, Sitkoh River has been the site of stream rehabilitation from earlier logging operations, thus encouraging salmon to repopulate. Guests saw evidence of this project’s success with both chum and silver salmon leaping from the water as they waited for the tide to rise enough to reach the area where they will lay their eggs.
In the morning, an extended tour was dispatched to the head of the bay to walk along the length of Sitkoh River and bushwhack into the forest. Hundreds of chum and pink salmon madly thrashed upriver, and remnants of the human history of logging greeted them in the low-lying meadow. Moderate and casual hikers additionally learned the ecology of one of Sitkoh Bay’s more unique inhabitants – the banana slug. Kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders headed across the head of the bay to Sitkoh Creek to watch the running salmon creep into the mouth of the stream. Before beginning the sail towards Sitka, younger guests learned how to operate the Zodiac landing crafts, and guests of all ages took the polar plunge into the temperate waters of Southeast Alaska.Nature has taught us many lessons this week, whether it be about strength, interconnectivity, or a sense of adventure. Even though this expedition is coming to a close, we can be sure that another will be soon to follow.