We had the opportunity to take an Alaskan adventure on my husband's skiff here in Wrangell, Alaska. There is an amazing river called the Stikine River that you can take for miles to all sorts of different places. My husband was kind enough to write about the history of the river and other spots we visited on the way. Enjoy!
The Stikine River (above) is an international river of almost 380 miles long with approximately 130 navigable miles. The river runs through northern areas of British Columbia and empties into the Pacific Ocean near Wrangell, Alaska. It is considered as one of the fastest flowing navigable rivers in the United States and Canada, and is home to coastal mountains, glaciers and icebergs, hot springs, historic gold rush sites, and many other attractions. The Stikine River has been used for centuries, dating back to history kept by the indigenous people calling it “cloudy river” and has been used for transportation into the areas of British Columbia, fishing (it is a spawning ground for salmon and hooligan fish), fur trading, and for when gold was discovered.
We traveled around 20 miles up into the river and stopping at different popular sights. One of the more difficult areas of the river is the beginning of navigating into the mouth. Heavy currents and sandbars trap many tourist and visitors for hours while they have to wait for the tides to come in. The water is so thick and murky that it is impossible to tell how deep you are, so being familiar with the area is important. Fortunately, our boat was a jet skiff and is designed to travel in shallow water, even inches if need be.
Our first stop was in a tributary creek of the Stikine called Clearwater. This creek originates from rain and snow melt coming off the mountains around the Stikine, creating a very clear creek. You know when you are in Clearwater because the water is no longer murky and is crystal clear with a hint of green. You can see in the picture below the water is noticeably more clear than the water pictured above.
We stayed here with the skiff tied to a bank on the creek by anchor, ate our lunch, and took a walk noticing the signs of moose, bear, and other animals. The scenery was amazing, surrounded by high peaks of snow covered mountains and meadows.
By now, we had been gone for a few hours and decided to turn back downriver and head towards Wrangell while stopping at other possible sites along the way. One of which was the Clearwater Cabin (pictured below), owned by the Forest Service. It is a two story A frame cabin that attracts many local customers coming up the river for camping and sport fishing.
We continued our way back, navigating past sandbars and shallow sloughs. With the current behind us, our skiff was probably making about 25 knots. In some of the sloughs, the water became shallow, and the width of the banks narrow which made stopping not an option. I learned how agile those skiffs can be and how sharply they can maneuver through such obstacles.
Our last stop before Wrangell was Garnet Ledge. This place is full of history, and is a place where the garnet gem naturally occurs near a small creek. Local families within the last few decades have come to this place to chisel the garnets from rock ledges and sell them to tourists visiting on cruise ships back in Wrangell.
Garnet Ledge has a two story A frame cabin similar to before so people can stay overnight. After investigating, we walked/hiked along a short boardwalk back into the woods near the creek where we were able to harvest a few garnet gems with some tools. Garnet gems are pictured below.