Kuiu Island

May 25, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

This morning National Geographic Quest anchored off the north coast of Kuiu Island. After breakfast we embarked on our chosen adventure of the day. Landing on an incredible white sand beach, we ventured into the woods or explored the bay by kayak or Zodiac. Kuiu was named for the Kuiu Kwan Tlingit people whose principle village was in Tebenkof Bay. Almost the entire village was wiped out by small pox and the survivors dispersed to Kake (on Kuiu) and northern Prince of Wales Island.

It did not take long before we discovered piles of evidence of the islands residents and learned about what density they flourish. With four black bears per square mile on Kuiu, there are more black bears per square than any place on earth. Weighing up to 500 pounds these bears are the largest black bears in the state. The adventuresome bushwhackers got what they signed up for as the low density of deer on the island made for some healthy understory. Persevering through the bramble bushes we encountered a bog and its open terrain was a welcome change from the thick blueberry and devils club. The path of least resistance was short lived as the bog came to an end once we entered the domain of the beaver whose dams flooded the land, forcing us back into the woods. We came across an incredible wall of limestone once we were back in the forest. The geology of Southeast Alaska is particularly favorable for limestone karst, with about 550,000 acres of very pure carbonate rock in the Tongass.  Soils derived from these rock types appear to be especially productive and some of the most productive old-growth forests occur on limestone soils. Prior to large scale timber harvests, Kuiu had the 4th most extensive distribution of large tree old growth in Southeast. Luckily, we were able to witness some of these massive trees that escaped the blade of man. Emerging from the forest onto another beach we were feeling enlivened by the beauty of our hike and the wildness which makes Alaska so incredible. Before heading back to the ship some of us decided to cool off with a swim in the refreshing waters of Frederick Sound.

After lunch, Dall’s porpoises rode beneath our bow and humpbacks entertained us with some pec slapping.

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About the Author

Elise Lockton


Elise’s passion for travel and interpretation is evident when you learn about the places she has chosen to live, work and travel. A degree in environmental studies introduced her to the world of interpreting nature, which has evolved into both a passion and profession.

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