2022 Alaska and the Inside Passage – Part 3 – Whale Watching and Brown Bear Search in Icy Strait Point

August 25, 2022 – We had a full day of wildlife excursions in a new to us location – Icy Strait Point, the only privately owned cruise ship destination in the United States. This former cannery and packing station is located near the town of Hoonah on Chichagof Island, the fifth largest island in the United States. The two cruise ship docks, a museum, restaurants, shops, and excursions are all owned and operated by the local Tlingit people.

We started our day with a whale watching expedition. Our Tlingit captain Drew sped through the water to get us to a good whale watching location. Everyone was on the lookout.

Thar she blows!

Our first sighting was a pod of about five humpback whales. I tried but I could never capture all five of them on the surface at once.

We witnessed a type of feeding behavior called bubble-net feeding. The whales all dive at once. When they all surface at the same time they are in a circle with their heads up and their mouths wide open. It’s hard to predict where they will surface and when they do, they only stay on the surface a few seconds. Sadly, I never could capture them all at once.

It was an amazing to see how the whales work together to feed this way. Captain Drew kept moving the boat so everyone could get a better look. The whales continued to feed the entire time we were there – almost two hours.

As these whales headed straight for our boat I heard the captain say “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

I could have stayed on the boat watching the whales all day but the captain had a schedule to keep and we had a bear search to get to. In the gallery below, the green walkway led us from the cruise ship dock to Icy Strait Point. We checked in for our bear search at the Adventure Center and had about an hour to explore before boarding a shuttle to take us to the trail. The Orca statue was the only Orca we saw the entire trip.

It was fun wandering through the museum and gift shops. I love the totems.

Our Tlingit bus driver told us about the area as he drove us through the beautiful Tongass National Forest and through the town of Hoonah. He was very knowledgeable and I really enjoyed hearing his stories about the Tlingit people.

He dropped us off at the trailhead where we met our guide for our trek through the forest. We stopped at the boardwalks beside the Spasski River where we hoped to see Coastal Brown Bears feeding on the salmon. There were salmon in the river, but no bears. Despite the fact that there were no bears I really enjoyed the walk through the forest.

After an exciting morning we arrived back at the ship with a big appetite for lunch. We just barely made it before they stopped serving hamburgers at the pool bar!

Up Next – Alaska’s capital city and the Mendenhall Glacier.