Saginaw Bay, on Kuiu Island

Aug 29, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

Even when it is raining, Southeast Alaska is an awesome place.  When it is not raining, when the sky is clear and the sea is glassy, it is off the charts!  Today was one of the latter, and we took full advantage.  Kuiu Island is the southernmost stop on our trip through Alaska's coastal wonderland.  We began with sharp eyes and diligent attention (it was Linda) and spotted a black bear on a beach of limestone pebbles.  It wasn't a photobear; hopefully, that will come later.

Vigorous hikers departed for an all-morning bushwhacking hike through the forest.  There are no prepared trails here so we followed trails made by the bears.  When those failed we made our own, pushing through the dense forest understory, winding around beaver ponds, and climbing over fallen trees.

Forgoing the bushwhack allowed us to divide our morning between kayaking over the serene sea, and exploring the rich and diverse marine life in the intertidal zone that was revealed by the low tide.  We walked along the gravel beach, searched for 300 million year old fossils in the limestone rock, and poked into the coastal spruce hemlock forest, finding trails traversed by generations of bears.  A mink scampered out of the forest to harvest intertidal invertebrates and then quickly returned into the forest to consume its prey in safety. 

We departed Kuiu Island and headed down Frederick Sound and then up Chatham Strait, investing our afternoon in the search for marine wildlife, stopping for humpback whales and Dall's porpoises as we basked in the warm afternoon sun. 

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About the Author

Steve Maclean

Steve Maclean


Steve is a zoologist and ecologist, broadly interested in the ecology and natural history of plants, birds, mammals, and insects. Steve received a doctorate in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley and spent 26 years on the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks as Professor of Biology and Director of International Programs. He taught courses in ecology and authored over fifty scientific papers.

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