Alaska Peninsula, Kamishak Bay: Bruin Bay to Cape Douglas

Hig & myself traversed the shore of Kamishak Bay via foot and packraft, doing surveys of what appear to be old uplifted shorelines. It’s a beautiful sea-land coastline traverse with (at the right time of year & conditions) lots of wildflowers, mountain views (including Augustine and Douglas), complex terrain, sea cliffs, and brown bears.

  • Distance: est. 60-70 miles, depending on route, with packrafts. Possible but longer without packrafts.
    Time: we took 5 days.
    Water Crossings: Substantial but not mandatory time-saving crossings. We did 5 crossings &shortcuts.
    Fords: All possible without rafts except Douglas River when we did it (June).

Packraft Utility: rafts are useful for cutting off bays and moving alongshore during high tide conditions, as well as taking a break from carrying the pack on long travel days. Beach walking can probably accomplish this whole route, but you’ll need to time it with the tides.
The big bay crossings we did:

  • Chenik Head to Amakdedulia
    Amakdedulia to McNeil Head
    McNeil Head across Akumwarvik Bay
  • some “shortcut” paddling at Chenik & Douglas River

The main fork of the Douglas river is not fordable. However, there is a floatplane accessable lake on the inland/west side of it, and tail draggers can land on the beach.
Related forum post on water crossing technique:


Volcanoes: When clear, spectacular views of Augustine (5,000 ft. active cone in the bay), Douglass, and Four Peak (both glaciated volcanoes many thousand feet taller than Augustine).
Old Sea Terraces: All along this coast, old wave-cut seashores appear to be uplifted above current sea level. The flats at Chenik Head are an excellant example. We did the trip just to study this; it’s dramatic, and we have yet to interpret the data we got.
Geological Mystery: Sea cliffs and bedrock tide flats: New tidal flats are eroding out rapidly into overhung sea clifs, from rock full of big cobbles… but the cobbles & sediment are vanishing, leaving broad tidal flats of exposed rock with a veneer of sand & silt. Why? We can’t figure it out. It’s wierd. It’s dramatic. It’s cool.
Bruin Headland Cliffs, Douglas Coast Sea Cliffs: Fresh cliffs eroding into the ocean, actively spalling rock. The Bruin Bay cliffs are cut by a distinct fault, and the Douglas cliffs have both springs actively emerging from them high up, and a magma dike cutting through them.

:exclamation: WEATHER. Kamishak has notoriously windy and unpredictable weather. We got sun, rain, and blowing mist. Amakdedori and Bruin Bay can supposedly get phenomenal blows. (In April 2008, Hig reports that skiing through Bruin Bay pass, they encountered a spruce that had literally been bent sideways in the wind, and frozen in place that way by ice accretion).

Bears. It’s bear central. Brown bears are common at least at Bruin Bay, Amakdedori, Chenik Head, and Douglas River. Chenik and Douglas are both bear viewing areas. We saw 22 bears total, 18 of them at Douglas River. LOTS of bear sign. We were very careful about camp placement, moving up out of bear trails and the beach, into upland and non-obvious sites.
Pushki. In addition to a few poisonous plants, there’s pushki in the area (for those unfamiliar, the juice of this herb - if left on your skin in the sunlight - can cause photochemical burns, but is very easily identified).
Don’t fall asleep immediately under the big sea cliffs. Rocks fall off. Regularly.


Access & Exit were by floatplane. Tail-draggers can also land on the beaches. This area gets bad weather, so plan a buffer of a least several days for getting out. A satphone can be useful, to call in a weather report to your pilot, particularly the cloud ceiling/visibility, and wind conditions.

Recommended gear: packrafts optional but very useful, gear that can handle being wet, relatively light loads for sustained beach walking. We also carried an EPERB and satphone (primarily to talk to our pilot). For food, we carried approx. 2 lbs. / per person / per day. Expect to burn a lot of calories. Food was kept in odor-proof bags inside Ur-sacks. We carried pepper spray for bears as well.

Permits: specifically visiting some sites like Chenik Falls and McNeil Falls (both bear-viewing areas) may require permits. We paddled clear of them.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate? Navigation is mostly easy (“follow the beach”). Going the full distance requires endurance. Weather conditions, working with the tides, and bear avoidance can be psychologically and tactically challenging. How do we rate it? We’re not sure… intermediate on the scale of wandering across Alaska, I guess :unamused: Hig’s mother-in-law says neither of us is qualified to rate anything.

Extra Sauce: Near Cape Douglas, the Spotted Glacier terminates in a lake now large enough for a floatplane, under impressive ridges & moraines. It’s 1-2 miles inland, though, up either a river full of slimy slick boulders, or a charming alder-devil’s club bushwack over hummocky old moraine. We did the bushwack in the middle of night, in the rain, full of bugs, carrying a D-handle shovel and a large sheet of plastic Hig needed for do-it-yourself awesomeness (“it’s free processor ivory!”). The bushwack was… not insubstantial.

Shameless Plug for Our Floatplane Pilot: We flew on this trip with Jose de Creeft / Northwind Aviation ( out of Homer. Very good pilot, good guy, tons of flight hours. we are stoked on Jose. Flight rates: $400/hr. Jose now knows this coast reasonably well, and could probably tell you of a variety of places he can land on it. Tips: don’t squish bugs on the windows, be nice to the plane & its doors, make sure your bearspray is packed separate to go in the floats. Carrying a satphone to give him a weather report is good. Bruin bay is about 1 hr. from Homer in clear conditions, Cape Douglas is about 45 minutes.

Sounds nifty. Need pixels.

We just got back, so they’re not ready yet. Forthcoming.


Geologists call the flat bedrock plane that appears at low tide in some places a “wave-cut platform.” In Kamishak this phenomena is particularly dramatic, with vast plains of bedrock abutting intertidal cliffs and sea-stacks.
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I think of him as Andrew, but others just call him “Shaggy.”
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For nests, Kamishak has few tall trees, but many tall cliffs.
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All along Kamishak Bay a flat terrace, an ancient beach, shows that once the land was lower, or the ocean higher (or both.)
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I’m not sure why Andrew was guarding this path to a misty sky, but I dared not test his will.
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This day we saw 18 bears.
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It looks cold, but Mt. Douglas has a lake full of 75 degree acid at its peak.
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Longboat self-portrait: I’ll form the head!
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Does anyone in US geological Survey has a study about Thera Volcano in Aigean Sea? I work in disaster management in Red ross of Greece and I am trying to collect info regardin the potential hazard of the Thera Volcano for the next decades.

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