Misty Fjords & Tongass Forest

Enjoy a virtual catamaran ride through the waters of Misty Fjords National Monument and the Tongass National Forest. Marvel at how ancient volcanoes and glaciers worked in perfect harmony to carve out over two million acres of tall cliffs, forest-covered rocks, numerous islands, hidden inlets, spectacular waterfalls and a giant basalt pillar.

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1 Pennock Island near Ketchikan, Alaska

Across from the Thomas Basin Boat Harbor in Ketchikan, Alaska, is the Pennock Island. It is narrow, about three miles long, and it defines an east and west channel of the Tongass Narrows between the much larger islands of Revillagigedo and Gravina. These houses on stilts belong to the very few residents that live here. Otherwise, Pennock is heavily wooded and largely uninhabited.

Whiskey Cove, Alaska 99901
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2 Pair of Adult Bald Eagles near Ketchikan, Alaska

These adult bald eagles perched on tree on Pennock Island near Ketchikan were surveying the Tongass Narrows for prey while their hungry eaglet waited patiently by the nest (off camera). This pair will mate for life and use the same nest for years. Bald eagles are a common sight in Alaska. Approximately 25,000 live in the southeast portion of the state. They tend to be much larger than other eagles found across North America.

Tongass Narrows, Alaska 99901
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3 Bold Island in Revillagigedo Channel near Ketchikan, Alaska

This is one of several small, beautiful islands in the Revillagigedo Cannel separating the island of the same name and the Annette Island. On a clear day, these forest-covered rocks reflect off the calm blue waters as you sail towards the Misty Fjords National Monument.

Revillagigedo Channel, Alaska 99901
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4 Revillagigedo Island Greenery near Ketchikan, Alaska

Notice the lush greenery on Revillagigedo Island between the clean aqua waters of the Behm Canal and the bright blue sky with a hint of puffy clouds. With a landmass of over 1,000 square miles, Revillagigedo is the 12th largest island in the United States. What makes it so green is rain and lots of it. This untouched expanse averages 154 to over 160 inches a year making it the world’s fourth wettest location.

Revillagigedo Channel, Alaska 99901
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5 New Eddystone Rock near Ketchikan, Alaska

The New Eddystone Rock is a majestic, 237 foot basalt pillar. It was a volcanic vent five million years ago and then shaped by glaciers. The tree-covered tower stands in the Behm Canal between the Revillagigedo Island in the background and an entrance to the Misty Fjords National Monument. It has been a popular sight for visitors since European navigator George Vancouver documented his discovery in 1793.

New Eddystone Rock, Alaska 99901
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6 Granite Cliffs of Rudyerd Bay near Ketchikan, Alaska

Most of the world’s fjords, which are glacier formed narrow inlets with steep cliffs, are found in only a handful of countries and some of the most beautiful ones are in the Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska about forty miles from Ketchikan. An exquisite example is this granite, moss-covered and tree-lined cliff at Rudyerd Bay. The Nex’adi tribe called this area “Xena.”

Punchbowl Cove, Alaska 99901
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7 Punchbowl Cove at Misty Fjords near Ketchikan, Alaska

It is easy to see how the Punchbowl Cove got its name. This spectacular formation shrouded in dancing clouds is inside Rudyerd Bay. It is a sample of the two million acres of pristine wilderness you will enjoy at the Misty Fjords National Monument. This section of the Tongass National Forest achieved the monument status in 1978 and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Punchbowl Cove, Alaska 99901
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8 Waterfall at Misty Fjords near Ketchikan, Alaska

Fresh mountain water rushes 1,000 to 3,000 feet down glacier-formed cliffs into the salt water of Rudyerd Bay in the Misty Fjords National Monument. Its source is the snow melt in the spring and almost constant rain during the summer. October is an especially wet month. No wonder the locals call it “The Mistys.”

Punchbowl Cove, Alaska 99901
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9 Smeaton Island in Tongass National Forest near Ketchikan, Alaska

Smeaton Island in the Tongass National Forest is the largest island in the one hundred mile long Behm Canal. However, it is inhabited only by wildlife that thrives among the dense rainforest vegetation and the unique Southeast Alaska ecosystem.

Smeaton Island, Alaska 99901
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10 Ancient Lava Flow Islands near Ketchikan, Alaska

During the Late Pleistocene period – about 126,000 to 5,000 years ago – volcanic activity and glaciers worked together to create the unspoiled beauty of the waterways, cliffs and fjords known as the Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords National Monument. Evidence of these ancient lava flows can be seen as small islands along the Behm Canal.

Behm Canal, Alaska, 99901
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11 Watchful Bald Eagle on Island near Ketchikan, Alaska

You can be so overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the Tongass National Forest that you overlook the wildlife staring back at you. For example, this bald eagle was watching closely as our boat passed by and then took to flight with its seven to eight foot wingspan to look for something far more interesting: his lunch.

Behm Canal, Alaska, 99901
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12 Harbor Seal in Behm Canal near Ketchikan, Alaska

The harbor seal is a common sight along the waterways surrounding Revillagigedo Island in Alaska. They typically grow to about six feet in length and can weigh up to 180 pounds. This black with white spots harbor seal was enjoying a nap while sunbathing on a rock during a rare clear blue afternoon in autumn. This behavior is called “hauling-out.”

Behm Canal, Alaska, 99901
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13 Catamaran Ride through Misty Fjords near Ketchikan, Alaska

The best way to experience and enjoy the picturesque Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords is on a three to four hour catamaran ride. I’d highly recommend the Allen Marine Tours. Captain Jason not only did an excellent job navigating the St. Nona boat I was on, but his entire crew was welcoming, helpful and educational. It was a perfect afternoon.

Revillagigedo Channel, Alaska 99901
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14 Reflections on Revillagigedo Channel near Ketchikan, Alaska

By the time you have this last look at the Revillagigedo Channel before arriving back in Ketchikan, most of the tourists are inside the boat sipping coffee, drinking soup or taking a nap. Not me. I was still hanging over the bow braving the chilly conditions taking photos of this gorgeous scenery. Each approaching waterway, channel, inlet, mountain and fjord was a special visual treat.

Revillagigedo Channel, Alaska 99901
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