|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m
Location/Size: East of Ketchikan in far Southeastern Alaska; 2,142,243 acres.
Main Activities: Sea kayaking, fishing, backcountry camping, hiking, backpacking, flightseeing, boat tours.
Gateway Towns/Getting There: Ketchikan/via scheduled air service from Juneau; via scheduled ferry service from Prince Rupert, B.C.; Wrangell; or points north. Monument access by floatplane from Ketchikan and elsewhere; tour and charter boat from Ketchikan; sea kayak; by road and foot from Hyder; possible foot access from kayak anchorages.
Facilities, Camping, Lodging: No park facilities. Primitive camping, some traditional campsites on west-central lakes; several reservable backcountry cabins, primarily in west-central lakes area.
Headquarters and Information: Headquarters, 3031 Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan, AK 99901-5743, 225-2148, website; Southeast Alaska Visitor Center, 50 Main Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, 228-6220.
At over 2 million acres, Misty Fiords is the largest national monument in the United States (the National Forest Service spells "fiord" with an "i" instead of a "j"). It is a land of sinuous fjords, long, twisting valleys, and exposed ridges. Most of the monument is very rugged, with 3,000- to 4,000-foot ridges rising steeply from the margins of glacier-cut, U-shaped valleys. In the northeast the peaks are higher and host numerous small glaciers, while to the southwest the terrain is somewhat gentler. As is true in most of the Southeast, the lowlands and slopes up to about 2,500 feet are covered with a forest of old-growth Sitka spruce and western hemlock.
The monument is located in far southeastern Alaska, bounded to the east and south with the Canadian border. It is largely on the mainland, though it also includes a sizable chunk of Revillagigedo Islandeverything east of a major divide. Behm Canal thus passes wholly through designated wilderness for much of its length, offering wonderful possibilities for exploration by water.
A large portion in the center of Misty Fiords is non-wilderness, primarily because of the existence of a mine that continues to operate as part of an agreement written into ANILCA. Another area near Hyder is non-wilderness due to past and possible future mining activity, but the rest of Misty Fiords is deserving of true wilderness status and is designated as such.
Water is a primary feature of Misty Fiords. Rugged adventurers can enjoy kayaking deep into the interior, then follow challenging routes up onto the open ridgecrests. Numerous lakes open out in valley basins, inviting wilderness camping and fishing. With some areas receiving upwards of 150 inches of rain per year, rushing streams are plentiful, as are waterfalls, wet meadows (muskeg), and boggy flats.
Perhaps the most amazing of Misty Fiords features is the 100-mile-long pairing of Pearse Canal and Portland Canal, an astonishingly uniform fjord system that runs from Hyder to the open ocean. The main channels of a riverine glacier system in the last ice age, the Pearse/Portland now serves as the eastern boundary of the monument as well as the U.S.-Canada border. Weekly summer ferry service from Ketchikan to Hyder follows the Portland Canal, though a relative few use the route for travel, recreation, and monument access. Consider joining those few.
Misty Fiords has several reservable backcountry cabins available, most located on lakes in the popular west-central portion of the monument on either side of the Behm Canal. A few short portage-, fishing-, and cabin-access trails link saltwater-access points with some lakes, while others must be reached by floatplane. Ketchikan is the main gateway town, offering a variety of outfitters and tour companies as well as being an important stop in the Alaska Marine Highway System.