The main place most tourists want to go when they come to Alaska is of course Denali National Park. But a very close second is the Kenai Peninsula which is just a few miles south of Anchorage. There are a number of reasons why the Peninsula is so popular, but I’ll cover those in my next post. In today’s post I want to include some photos of the Cook Inlet which was named after Captain James Cook, the first European to explore this part of Alaska. Specifically we are going to talk about Turnagain Arm which is the part of the Cook Inlet Anchorage is on and separates it from the Kenai Peninsula. The story goes that it got its name when Cook tried to sail down it and had to turn again to get out. Here’s a map to see help visualize where things are:
While the Kenai Peninsula is only a few miles south of Anchorage as the crow flies, you have to drive around the Turnagain Arm to get there. There’s good news and bad news about that; the good news is it is an incredibly beautiful drive, one of the prettiest you’ll ever take! The bad news is the traffic can be bad and drive you crazy! The key is to try to relax and just enjoy the view!
For as long as I’ve lived in Alaska there has been talk about building a bridge across it but the geology makes it so difficult that it would be tremendously expensive so it will never happen:
- Mudflats: Nearly all the water that flows into the Cook Inlet is glacial and has a very high content of sand and silt created by the glaciers grinding their way through the mountains. All that silt and sand collects in the Inlet and then the extreme tides hold it in place and it becomes an incredible gloppy mess. More about that later
- Extreme Tides: Anchorage has some of the highest tides in the world—as much as 34 feet. Building a bridge in those circumstances takes some very special engineering.
- Ice: Turnagain Arm freezes every winter and forms an ice pack. It isn’t vey solid so the big freight ships make it in and out with no problem, but when you combine that with the extreme tides it makes building a bridge extremely difficult.
For now at least, if you want to visit the Kenai Peninsula you have to drive around Cook Inlet. But believe me, no trip to Alaska is complete without it; it’s that beautiful! It would be worth devoting a day or two just driving around it and exploring all the pull-outs along the road. You want to be sure and take the road back to Girdwood and see the Alyeska Ski Lodge and Crow Creek. I also highly recommend taking the road back to Portage Glacier. Both are very beautiful and worth exploring at length.
A word of warning though. When the tide is out it looks like you are safe to walk out on the mudflats, but looks are deceiving!! The mudflats are extremely dangerous and the tides move in and out at an extreme speed. At their fastest, the tides can come in and rise at 6 inches a minute! To make matters much worse and sometimes fatal, the mudflats can work very much like quicksand and trap your feet and legs like a vise you can’t escape from. Nearly every year Search and Rescue has to go out and pull someone out of the mudflats before the tide kills them. Some years they’re too late and people drown after being trapped in the mud. Stay off the mudlfats! For more info, check out this link: http://www.girdwoodfire.com/Mud.html
We’ve had such poor weather I haven’t spent enough time in Anchorage to get many good shots this trip so I’m including some from before I left the state, mainly from 2006. I hope you enjoy them!