Ford’s Terror

South of Juneau there are two opposing “arms” – large fjords that branch off in opposite directions, but sort-of connected at the bottom end.  Tracy Arm is the showy, better known fjord with the north and south Sawyer glaciers at its head, and Endicott Arm is more broad with the Dawes glacier at its head.  At this time of the summer Tracy Arm is often very choked with ice calved from the Sawyer glaciers.  It’s usually much safer to navigate starting around mid-July.  Right now some of the icebergs are the size of houses.We anchored for the night at the mouth of the fjords since there are almost no places to anchor farther up either arm – fjords are very deep and they have sheer walls.  We spotted a brown bear foraging on the beach while I was out in the kayak – always a treat to see.The next morning we headed up Endicott Arm, seeing some ice along the way……and a few humpbacks.Our destination was not the glacier at the head, instead we wanted to spend a couple of nights in Ford’s Terror – what a great name for a place!  Ford’s is a much narrower fjord that branches off Endicott Arm, with a big waterfall at its outer entrance……and when you turn away from this waterfall you have to navigate between two rock reefs that are very poorly charted, into a narrow blind dog-leg channel between sheer rock walls before the fjord opens up into a grand landscape of cliffs and waterfalls.  With our large tides you can imagine that the water can be very turbulent and violent when the current is at its strongest.  We can only enter at slack current and high tide.  The story of the name comes from the late 1800s when a hunter entered the fjord in a row boat and got stuck in there through a tide cycle while the water raged.  It’s an appropriate name!Can you see our boat in the photo above?  Ford’s is intimate, in terms of a fjord, but it’s a big magnificent place that reminds us how very small we are.  It’s breathtaking, and there’s no way to capture the feeling of the place in photos, though I keep trying.Waterfalls are everywhere – you can’t possibly count them all.  We took the dinghy on a little tour around the fjord and had a ball admiring all the different ways that falling water can be beautiful.One afternoon I was out in the kayak and I spotted a harbor seal following me.  This is pretty typical – they’re very curious but also shy, so they stay behind where you can’t see them.  I paddled backwards for a few strokes to get just the right angle for a photo, and heard a loud splash – I surprised the seal behind me.  From then on he started playing with the kayak, gently pushing it from behind.  At one point I heard the scratch of his nails on my boat – he put a flipper up to try and get a better look at what I had back there.  I didn’t move a muscle, though I talked quietly to him.  He gradually got more brave, making a big splash at me as he swam away, swimming under the kayak, and slowly making his way closer and closer to the front of the boat.  This game went on for about 20 minutes as he got bolder……resting his chin on the edge a few times and looking at me with those big eyes.  At one point he got a flipper farther up on the side of the boat and I was afraid he was going to try and haul out on the kayak so I paddled into the shallows where he couldn’t reach me.  It was great fun to get a visit like this from a seal, but he’s a wild animal and he should be more wary of humans.  I went ashore to take photographs and he swam off, but what a thrill!

On the way out of Ford’s we did some photo ops with the boat in front of a waterfall near the entrance, just to show the scale of one of the medium sized falls.

4 thoughts on “Ford’s Terror

  1. Hard to figure out what to comment other than WOW!!! Beautiful place, and what an amazing experience with the seal! You’re a “seal whisperer!” Leavin for our summer journey north day after tomorrow and will respond to your email then. Hugs to you both!!

  2. As always fun to “hear” and see what you are up to. Your pics are great and love hearing of your adventures.

  3. Hi Robin! We went in to Fords Terror last year at LOW tide slack. The least amt of water I saw was 11.8 feet. We also saw all the shoals you want to avoid. We went out at high tide slack which wasn’t nearly as exciting! 🙂

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