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Thread: Bering Sea West Alaska Coastline

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    Member BeaV's Avatar
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    Default Bering Sea West Alaska Coastline

    Hello all, I have been reading this forum for a year now looking for pointers for a big upcoming trip I'm doing this year, but this is my first post. As part of my 5000 mile canoe trip, I will be paddling from the mouth of the Yukon River south to the Kvichak River along the west coast. About the only information I have found for this area is from topographic and google earth maps. I can see that much of the terrain is low ground and the rivers are probably subject to tidal surges. My question is what to expect for finding drinkable water along the way? Are the rivers and ponds/lakes near the coast brackish?

    Thanks, BeaV

    ps If my question seems naive, it's because I'm from Minnesota and know little of oceans and tides.

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    You may be taking a very dangerous undertaking if you don't have experience in tidal waters....



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    Quote Originally Posted by BeaV View Post
    Hello all, I have been reading this forum for a year now looking for pointers for a big upcoming trip I'm doing this year, but this is my first post. As part of my 5000 mile canoe trip, I will be paddling from the mouth of the Yukon River south to the Kvichak River along the west coast. About the only information I have found for this area is from topographic and google earth maps. I can see that much of the terrain is low ground and the rivers are probably subject to tidal surges. My question is what to expect for finding drinkable water along the way? Are the rivers and ponds/lakes near the coast brackish?

    Thanks, BeaV

    ps If my question seems naive, it's because I'm from Minnesota and know little of oceans and tides.
    Drinking untreated water, regardless of the location, may give you the BeaVer Fever. I suggest bringing a water filter or boil it before drinking any water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeaV View Post
    If my question seems naive, it's because I'm from Minnesota and know little of oceans and tides.
    If you know little of oceans & tides, then the west coast of Alaska is really not a good place to be learning, especially in a canoe.
    "Grin and Bear It"

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    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    And 5000 mile canoe trip? Are you floating the Yukon? What's the rest? Lets hear some detail



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    There will be streams and seeps rather commonly along that route, not all will be clear, many will be tannic but there shouldn't be much for brackish ponds. Definitely filter or treat or boil.

    I'm curious why a canoe compared to a sea kayak.....either way, a rather ambitious enterprise....I'd look into doing a South East AK paddle compared to where you are headed.....The western coastline I've seen (Newenham to the Kvichak.....largely looks the same, is exposed to open ocean, has plenty of oozy,mucky flats to get to a camping spot, not a lot of nooks and crannies to hide in if (read, when) the weather kicks up.....not the best of Alaska if you ask me, but it's your kicks not mine).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tearbear View Post
    Drinking untreated water, regardless of the location, may give you the BeaVer Fever. I suggest bringing a water filter or boil it before drinking any water.
    Good one

    Yes I will be boiling or filtering my water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunt&FishAK View Post
    And 5000 mile canoe trip? Are you floating the Yukon? What's the rest? Lets hear some detail
    Someone posted a couple posts down that we need a post about canoeing- so now you have one!

    Route details: Starting in Washington State, up the inside passage, portage over the Chilkoot Pass, Yukon River to the Chandalar River, up the Chandalar to where the water is too shallow to continue, portage over the tundra to the South Koyukuk River, down the Koyukuk back to the Yukon, Yukon to the Bering Sea, Bering Sea to the Kvichak River, up the Kvichak to Illiamna Lake to the Williamsport Road to Cook Inlet, then to Anchorage.

    The canoe I am using is a Kruger Sea Wind. The Sea Wind is a partially decked solo canoe and has a cockpit cover for nasty conditions.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeaV View Post
    Someone posted a couple posts down that we need a post about canoeing- so now you have one!

    Route details: Starting in Washington State, up the inside passage, portage over the Chilkoot Pass, Yukon River to the Chandalar River, up the Chandalar to where the water is too shallow to continue, portage over the tundra to the South Koyukuk River, down the Koyukuk back to the Yukon, Yukon to the Bering Sea, Bering Sea to the Kvichak River, up the Kvichak to Illiamna Lake to the Williamsport Road to Cook Inlet, then to Anchorage.

    The canoe I am using is a Kruger Sea Wind. The Sea Wind is a partially decked solo canoe and has a cockpit cover for nasty conditions.
    Sounds like a three or four year trip. You intend to do this solo?
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    Sounds like fun except for the "up the Chandalar part" and the Yukon Delta /west coast stuff.... Good post...gets the gray matter working.... The Chandalar portage would kick your ass....not to mention getting up the Chandalar in the first place....it can run pretty fast depending on summer rains in the Brooks. I would look towards the interior of North America...why not get to the headwaters of the Mackenzie, run it to the mouth and paddle west to the coast of Alaska. Get out in Prudhoe Bay, catch a ride south....

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    I'll fix you up with a meal and hot shower when you hit Wrangell.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch It View Post
    There will be streams and seeps rather commonly along that route, not all will be clear, many will be tannic but there shouldn't be much for brackish ponds. Definitely filter or treat or boil.

    I'm curious why a canoe compared to a sea kayak.....either way, a rather ambitious enterprise....I'd look into doing a South East AK paddle compared to where you are headed.....The western coastline I've seen (Newenham to the Kvichak.....largely looks the same, is exposed to open ocean, has plenty of oozy,mucky flats to get to a camping spot, not a lot of nooks and crannies to hide in if (read, when) the weather kicks up.....not the best of Alaska if you ask me, but it's your kicks not mine).
    Thankyou for answering my question on drinking water.

    I am using a canoe instead of a sea kayak because: much more carrying capacity for gear and food for up to 2 months between resupply, can paddle in a canoe more hours and therefore can cover more distance, and I am a canoe'er not a kayaker by experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    Sounds like a three or four year trip. You intend to do this solo?
    Yes I will be doing this trip solo and will be doing the whole thing this year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeaV View Post
    Yes I will be doing this trip solo and will be doing the whole thing this year.

    Sounds like quite the adventure! Have a safe journey.
    "Grin and Bear It"

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    Quote Originally Posted by pipercub View Post
    Sounds like fun except for the "up the Chandalar part" and the Yukon Delta /west coast stuff.... Good post...gets the gray matter working.... The Chandalar portage would kick your ass....not to mention getting up the Chandalar in the first place....it can run pretty fast depending on summer rains in the Brooks. I would look towards the interior of North America...why not get to the headwaters of the Mackenzie, run it to the mouth and paddle west to the coast of Alaska. Get out in Prudhoe Bay, catch a ride south....
    Thanks for the suggestion but my route is set and I'm starting in under 3 months from now. No doubt it would be alot easier to just stay on the Yukon instead of going up the Chandalar and down the Koyukuk but I really want to get back to my cabin I built years ago on the South Fork of the Koyukuk. Others have also told me not to try to paddle the Chandalar but I'm more concerned with crossing overland to the Koyukuk River drainage. I agree with you that it won't be easy. I'm hoping I can paddle/line up the West Fork just west of East Buttons and then portage through Boatman Pass then go west or northwest. My topo map shows a winter trail through here but that may no longer exist or just be too brushy to be of any help. We'll see and hopefully it doesn't kick my ass....completely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeaV View Post
    My topo map shows a winter trail through here but that may no longer exist or just be too brushy to be of any help. We'll see and hopefully it doesn't kick my ass....completely.
    Just be prepared for there to not be a trail and for that route to be potentially impassable. In my experience, there is a reason some trails specifically are labled as "winter" trails. It means there is frequently no trail at all in the summer (used for snowmachines/dogsleds in the winter) and/or traverses terrain no passable in the summer for any number of reasons.

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    Many of those winter trails are historic late 1890's and early 1900's mining trails. The USGS back in the 1940's and 1950's was able to map them and get them onto the first maps of the territory. Few of them exist these days unless there is an active mine in the region. Most of these trails were used by horse drawn sledges to haul freight and machinery so they are pretty well thought out routes for winter travel. Their traces may still be present with a significant change in vegetation.

    Currently the mines north of Chandalar lake come in from Cold Foot on a route that is north of the one you want to use. It is brushed out by both the miners and the locals that live at the lake and come in during the winter.

    You will want to spend some time just up stream of where the east fork dumps in. History rusting away in the bush.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Do you have the deep model? I would for sure look at a small sump pump and solar charged battery. Looks like the sail option would be nice to have also. Remember our tides here in the SE move faster than you can paddle along the coast. You need to also be aware of whirlpools at tide changes. A outrigger would also be nice safety wise if caught a mile out from shore.
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    5000 miles in 180 days...and that's being generous... is 28 miles a day. Large portages, lining upstream on the Chandalar and the Kvichak will slow you down immensely. Good luck with that.

    I admire your adventurous spirit, but your planning leaves a bit to be desired. Since your original post asks about tides in western Alaska, I will address that.

    I spent several summers working in western Alaska. I have worked on the Kvichak River, the mouth of the Yukon, the mouth of the Kuskokwim, and portions of the coast around Quinhagak. In many of these places the water is so shallow that low tide can leave you with a 1/4 mile of mud between you and shore. In many cases you cannot walk on this mud because it is like quick sand. More than once I had stranded boats at low tide and sunk boats at high tide (not enough anchor line). The wind BLOWS constantly out there. There are times that the tide, the river flow, and the wind are all coming from different directions and you can hardly make progress with a 40hp skiff at the mouth of the Yukon. I swamped one 16' skiff on that job in 5' waves right near shore.

    Portions of the Kvichak have banks so high at high tide that I can't imagine lining a canoe along them, much less walking along them. I've been hammered by waves in Lake Illiamna that nearly swamped a 18' skiff. After that day I waited a WEEK for weather that allowed me to travel.

    I have no clue how tough you are, but that canoe weighs over 60lbs. That means that every portage is going to take THREE times the walking that going with a simple pack will. 1 mile forward with the canoe, one mile back to get your pack, one mile forward with your pack...repeat. Some days it will be more like 200 yards forward per shuttle. I suppose you could drag the canoe for some of the portages. Still no way you are going to make the mileage you desire.

    I can't imagine doing this trip with less than 60lbs of gear. You won't be able to get lightweight food along the way to resupply, so I bet you will be running at 100 lbs of gear at some times.

    Now, for the weather. This summer we suffered some of the worst rains ever. It made some rivers impassable and travel miserable. The only guarantee on weather in Alaska is that at some point it's going to stop you.

    Good luck. I wish I had the gumption to try something like this.
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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    The latest I've seen it snow on Chilkoot pass is June and earliest August. The whole thing has been done before with not as good of gear but it sure took alot longer. The Dalton trail may be quicker up through Haines or the Stikeen from Wrangell.I would never put a time on it myself as to much is invested to fail because of a clock.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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