Kuiu – West Coast

Here’s a map showing Kuiu Island and the next two bays where we spent some time exploring.

We’ve been wanting to explore the Bay of Pillars for some time, but a few comments about rocks in the cruising guide had given us pause in the past. This time we decided to poke our noses in there and see what we could see. We imagined all these rock pillars, maybe some hidden under the water, ready to crunch a propeller or something. It turns out that there are no pillars in the Bay of Pillars, and a local told us that the name probably came from some tall Spruce trees near the entrance to the bay that have since been cut down.

There certainly was a nice amount of wildlife in there, as well as some ruins from an abandoned cannery.

There were once canneries and salteries in nearly every bay around southeast Alaska – we still have two operating fish processing plants in Petersburg, and there are others in Sitka, Juneau, near Hoonah, etc. Then as well as now – it’s all about the fish!

And for us, it’s all about the beautiful scenery and wildlife.


Sublime. Lovely. Peaceful. We thoroughly enjoyed our exploration of this intriguing place, including a large back bay accessible via a long, narrow rocky cut where the current can be quite strong (we saw little whirlpools when we headed back there by skiff). Salmon streams are fed by mountain lakes, and fish were already starting to make their way up.

It’s always hard to leave a pretty place, but there are always more places to explore. Last summer we spent a little time in Tebenkof Bay – the next bay south, and left tons of territory that needed to be explored. We intended to make a little dent in that list this time, but would still leave more to see. On the way we were entertained by a couple of humpbacks feeding. One was laying on its back, slapping alternate pectoral fins….

…while the other one made a few small breaches.

We had some weather coming in so we tucked into a snug nook for shelter and some kayaking. I found a few bears – one big boar was standing in the stream hoping for some fish. There were a few around, but not too many yet. Grass would have to do for a snack.

Sea otters were plentiful – large mats of them floating on their backs. They’re wary – often one would keep an eye on me while the rest napped, played with their pups, and did all the things that sea otters do.

I found that the best way to get close to the otters is to find one that’s asleep and sneak up on it in the kayak. As I was doing that, I realized that I was right next to a rock with a number of black turnstones on it – they blended in so well that I almost missed them.

Stay tuned for more from Tebenkof Bay on Kuiu Island…

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