When Tim and I first began to research the top things to do in Wrangell, a jet boat adventure on the Stikine River sounded like a lot of fun. We had taken a jet boat ride in Hell’s Canyon during our nine-month trip, and we absolutely loved that one, so we booked the Stikine River Wilderness Adventure tour with Alaska Waters. The fact that Alaska Waters offered a two-for-one deal with the Alaska TourSaver made the tour much more affordable.
The Stikine River is the fastest free-flowing navigable river in North America. The river is 330 miles long and has its start in British Columbia. The Alaska portion of the river is a part of the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness area, one of the most pristine areas in Southeast Alaska.
On a gorgeous morning Tim and I and three other couples boarded the jet boat at the dock in Wrangell and soon crossed the 17-mile-wide Stikine River Delta. We traveled 70 miles up the river and into back-sloughs and tributaries before making our way toward Shakes Glacier. The scenery was simply breathtaking, and we did our best to take in the high peaks of the Coast Mountains, the lush rain forest and the cascading waterfalls that we passed.
|Crystal Clear Water in the Tributaries|
|Snow-Capped Mountains and Rain Forests|
|A Most-Unusual Waterfall|
On the way we stopped for a while to soak in the scenery, and our captain opened a cooler filled with Dungeness crab. We knew that water and sodas would be provided, but this was his treat. Wow! James is the son of the owner of Alaska Waters and is a Native Alaskan. He was an excellent guide and provided just the right amount of commentary without overwhelming us with information. We especially enjoyed hearing the legends of the Tlingit people and how they arrived in Southeast Alaska.
When we made the turn toward Shakes Glacier, we were faced with an amazing sight. Shakes Lake was filled with icebergs. As we slowly made our way through the maze, we marveled at the crystal-clear ice and the blue tints. We were so close that we could reach out and touch the ice. Although the icebergs did prevent us from reaching the face of the glacier, that was ok. This was a magical experience.
|What Is That Floating in the Water?|
|Icebergs Blocking Our Way|
|Wonderful Shapes and Colors|
|Making Our Way Among the Icebergs|
|Floes of Ice|
We pulled up to a nearby spit of land with a full view of the icebergs and were able to step out and admire the view. No other boat was around, and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was so quiet and peaceful. Tim remarked that despite all of the backcountry he has explored, this was the most pristine wilderness he had ever visited.
|Our Jet Boat from Alaska Waters|
|An Iceberg Had Flipped Over Revealing a Gorgeous Blue|
|Final Look on Our Way Back|
Unfortunately, the wildlife was shy, and we only spotted a few ducks and some harbor seals. Not a moose or bear was to be found, and the bald eagle was not home in the enormous nest we saw.
|A Few Harbor Seals Sunning Themselves|
We have been fortunate to take two amazing tours so far, and we have several more planned. Although you can have a fabulous time in Alaska without taking a flightseeing or boat tour, I would hate to miss out on these experiences. While some may consider them touristy, I think they provide a look into a part of Alaska that you cannot see from the road or the trail.
The big negative is that these tours are not cheap. Most are way outside the entertainment budget of most full-time, or even part-time, RVers. Yes, the Alaska TourSaver helps a lot, but even one tour is expensive. My advice to anyone who is planning a future trip to Alaska is to start a special savings fund right now. That’s what Tim and I did. We put aside all of the fees that he’s earned from his contract work at national parks and labeled the fund “Special Alaska Experiences Fund.” I expect that we’ll use every dime of it!