Blue glacial lakes, tall waterfalls, and snowcapped peaks surround visitors to “the Mistys”
The spectacular Misty Fiords National Monument, lying just 22 miles east of Ketchikan, is a natural mosaic of sea cliffs, steep fjords and rock walls jutting 3000ft straight out of the ocean. Taking its name from the almost constant precipitation characteristic of the area, the monument is covered with thick rainforests that grow on nearly vertical slopes from sea level to mountaintops. Dramatic waterfalls plunge into the salt water through narrow clefts or course over great rounded granite shoulders fed by lakes and streams that absorb the rainfall of more than 150 inches annually.
Extending 2.3 million acres across Tongass National Forest, Misty Fiords is the largest wilderness in Alaska's national forests and the second largest in the nation. The major waterway cutting through the monument, Behm Canal, is more than 100 miles long and extraordinary among natural canals for its length and depth. The long canal separates Revillagigedo Island from the mainland and provides passage to Walker Cove, Rudyerd Bay and Punchbowl Cove - the preserve's most picturesque areas.
Wildlife in Misty Fiords is abundant and varied and includes mountain goat, brown bear, black bear, moose, marten, wolf, wolverine, river otter, sea lion, harbor seal, killer whale and Dall porpoise. Birds range from hummingbirds to trumpeter swans to herons to bald eagles. All five Pacific salmon are present.
Kayaking the protected coves and inlets is a popular way to experience the fiords. It's a long paddle to inlet from Ketchikan so many visitors arrange to be dropped off and picked up by a tour boat, thus opening up the monument to even beginner kayakers. You can also view the area on sightseeing flights or day-long boat cruises. If time is short flightseeing is the only option but most tours include landing on a lake and a short walk in the rain forest.
Scattered through the monument are 13 Forest Service cabins (877-444-6777, 515-885-3639) that can be reserved in advance. Other facilities include the Big Goat Lake Cabin, which is free and available on a first-come, first-served basis and four Adirondack shelters that are also free.
Kayaks can be rented in Ketchikan and drop-off and pick-up service within the monument can be arranged along with guided trips. Ketchikan is also where most boat cruises and flightseeing tours are based while some cruise ships include the deep waters of Behm Canal and Rudyerd Bay in their itineraries.
There is no entrance fees for Misty Fiords National Monument but there is a nightly fee for renting the Forest Service cabins.
Ketchikan serves as the gateway to Misty Fiords and can be reached by daily scheduled jet service from Seattle, Anchorage, Juneau and many Inside Passage communities. Alaska Marine Highway ferries also connect Ketchikan to Bellingham, WA, Prince Rupert, B.C., and major Southeast communities and the city is a popular stop for cruise ships. There is no mainland road access to Ketchikan.
For more information on Misty Fiords contact the Ketchikan-Misty Fiords Ranger district (907-225-2148) in Ketchikan or the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center (907-228-6220). Contact the Ketchikan community page for a list of tour companies offering flightseeing, boat cruises and guided trips to Misty Fiords.