Alaska’s Turnagain Arm

One of the most traveled areas in the state is the Seward Highway and Chugach National Forest, located south of Anchorage in the Cook Inlet Region. It is where people in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula go to explore the great outdoors.

There are areas to watch beluga whales return to the region. Many people stop at the campgrounds to enjoy scenery for a few weeks and try the trails. Others spend time at the streams and local lakes during fishing season.

The Cook Inlet begins at the Gulf of Alaska with the Kenai Peninsula to the east and a line of active volcanoes to the west. Just south of Anchorage is the Turnagain Arm as it turns away from the Cook Inlet. The Arm then goes south into the Portage area. On each side, throughout this journey, are mountains near the water. Another unique feature to Turnagain Arm is the fine silt on the banks. People are warned to stay away from it at low tide, because people have become stuck while the tide was low. Rescue crews have had to pull the more adventurous people out of the sand and silt before the incoming tide returned. If a person remains stuck, there is the risk of drowning if someone has gone to far out in the water. The second threat is hypothermia, due to the temperature of the rapidly approaching water from the ocean. Anyone who goes into the Cook Inlet water has to wear rubber suits to withstand the quick chill that is experienced by anyone brave enough to go in for a quick dip.

Turnagain Arm is one of the few locations in the world where visitors can experience a bore tide. This happens when rushing water of high tide overtakes the land left over from low tide. After each low tide near the Portage area there is no water left, only silt and sand. It is waiting to be covered up by the incoming high tide again. When the moon is further away from the earth, our satellite’s pull on the ocean water is not as strong. So. that means high and low tides are not as extreme. When a bore tide occurs during these periods, the waves of the bore tide are small. The larger bore tides occur when the moon is closer to the earth. That is when the gravitational pull of the moon is at its peak, causing larger waves in the Turnagain Arm bore tides. Experts who study tides, say the best viewing times would be during the Spring and Fall Equinox. Don’t be surprised to see surfers in wet suits catching the big tidal wave as it rolls through the Turnagain Arm.

Seward, Alaska is a major port for cruise ships. It’s at the start of the Seward Highway that travels to Anchorage. The highway is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the country. Alongside the road while it winds through the Turnagain Arm is the Alaska Railroad. It transports visitors from Seward to Anchorage to Denali and Fairbanks.

Other areas of the Turnagain Arm to check out while traveling to Anchorage or to the Kenai Peninsula include: goldmining sites, glaciers, and Alyeska Ski Resort.