Portage Lake Kayaking (Alaska, USA)

Party: Felix Ossig-Bonanno (author), Dale, Jonathan, Shane, and Lachlan
Photos: Not Me!

Dale had mentioned organising a kayaking trip and it was happening! I got to the McDonalds around the corner nice and early and we were soon on our way.

Driving down the Turnagain Arm I commented on the hint of smoke in the air. We met at the carpark next to Portage River #2 and soon Andrew arrived with Lachlan. We left a car there and headed out to the Visitor Centre.

We put in and were soon on our way (Lachlan and Andrew were waiting at a different spot, but soon found us)… except I forgot my camera. I went back to the car, but it looked like I must have forgotten it completely!

We kayaked around the South shore, stopping briefly at a rocky beach with a makeshift wooden quay (close to the boat tour dock). Next we headed to the iceburg I had been eyeing for some time…

After kayaking up to it and inspecting the side, I decided I had no choice but to climb it. I pulled up next to it and and put one foot up onto the natural platform. Once I was safely on I pulled the kayak up so it wouldn’t float away. Then began the slippery climb. I wasn’t sure how far I would get, but small stones and depressions in the ice coaxed me on and soon got to the top of a local maxima. Getting down was trickier, and, relying more on my hands they became numb and began to ache with the icy cold.


With the excitement over we continued along the lake to have a look at the Portage Glacier. On my first visit here I had mistaken the Burns Glacier as the Portage Glacier but this glacier that has now receded so much that it is no longer visible from the Visitor Centre.

We passed a spot Dale likes to camp at, but the water was a lot higher than the last time they were here and their fire and sleeping places were now all underwater.
We rounded the corner and there it was!

I decided to get up closer and headed for the exposed rock in the centre of the glacier. I docked, pulled up my kayak and went exploring. I climbed to the highest point on the rock and admired the view out across the lake. There were also many cool ice caves, but these looked too dangerous to enter.
The surface of the glacier was a mass of mini mountain ranges and looked pretty much impossible to traverse even with crampons etc.

We headed back much the same way, admiring the waterfalls coming down the cliffs on either side.

We visited the iceburg on the way back. The boat tour was heading back to the glacier. We weren’t sure what side it would go on. I went closer to the glacier as the boat came closer. I circled around and the boat followed doing an entire lap before leaving me to chilax in the shade of the ‘burg.

Lachlan had headed back earlier to meet with Andrew but he was still at the car park when we set down for a break. He had asked some people to send a message for him once they had reception.

Andrew eventually arrived – he had fallen asleep. And we continued the trip, jumping back into the kayaks and following the stream exiting the lake as it made its way under the bridge and down through the valley.

We stopped lots of time for the others to have a ‘hit’ and a smoke. On one of the stops we also played frisbee.
The river was quite straight forward and Dale commented that it was much easier in the higher water.

We soon reached the highway, and passing under it landed in the tiny cove next to the car. I waited with the kayaks whilst the others went to retrieve the cars.

On the way back we were delayed by the McHugh Valley fire, taking an additional ~1.5hrs on the drive that was already not the shortest.
Hopefully the cyclist we stopped to say hello to wasn’t the culprit who lit the fire!

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