Tebenkof Bay and Kuiu Wilderness
Located in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
Location: The 66,839-acre Tebenkof Bay Wilderness and the 60,581-acre Kuiu Wilderness are located on the southern half of Kuiu Island approximately 50 miles southwest of Petersburg. The two wilderness areas share a common boundary, with the Tebenkof Bay Wilderness to the north of the Kuiu Wilderness.
Access: Access to the area is by boat or floatplane. There are over a dozen good anchorages in the bays providing protection for small boats. However, boat access to Tebenkof Bay or Port Malmesbury requires boating through Chatham Strait, the southern portion of which is exposed to the effects of the open ocean. To approach these bays from the south, it is necessary to round Cape Decision, which is notorious for its rough seas. From the north, kayakers can access Tebenkof Bay by portaging the 1.2-mile Bay of Pillars Portage Trail, an easy trail that follows a road. The 1.5-mile Affleck Portage Trail is a primitive trail that provides an emergency exit/entrance between Affleck Canal and Petrof Bay. It is primarily used by kayakers only when unsafe seas at Cape Decision force them to do so. The four-mile Alecks Creek Portage Trail is a very rough pathway that is better suited to day hikes than it is for portaging. The nearest ferry service is in Kake, on the northwest corner of Kupreanof Island.
Description: The most prominent features of these wilderness areas are the travelways or water routes associated with the complex marine system of bays with many small islands, islets, and coves.
The vegetation is typical of southeast Alaska with muskeg interspersed through the hemlock-spruce forests blending into alpine plant communities at approximately 2,000 feet. The highest elevation in the wilderness is 3,355 feet at Kuiu Mountain. Numerous species of sea, shore, and land birds inhabit the area, along with black bears, wolves, smaller furbearers, and marine mammals. Especially noteworthy are the significant numbers of sea otters.
Historically, the Tlingit Natives resided in these wilderness areas, especially in Tebenkof Bay. They trapped, camped, hunted, fished, gathered seaweed, and gardened throughout the area. It is virtually impossible to land on any beach that has not had a human presence in the past.
Commercial raising of blue and white foxes occurred on at least 30 fur farm operations in the area. Most operations were abandoned by the early 1940's, although some operated until the mid 1960's.
Coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon, cutthroat, rainbow and steelhead trout, and Dolly Varden inhabit the lakes and streams. The most notable shellfish and marine fish species include clams, Dungeness, Tanner and King crab shrimp, sea cucumbers, herring, and halibut. Tebenkof bay has a history of redtide. The waters of these bays are important to the commercial fishing fleet, especially trollers, seiners, and longliners.
Facilities: None exist.
Special Features: The complex system of bays, coves, and small islands, in conjunction with the ferry access from Kake and the remote nature of this region, make the southern half of Kuiu Island an excellent area for the experienced kayaker to explore on a one week or longer paddle trip.
For further information contact: Petersburg Ranger District - Tongass National Forest
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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