Where To Kayak in Glacier Bay
Bartlett Cove/Beardslee Islands Kayaking
Most kayakers paddling in the lower bay regions meet us for their kayak orientaion at 9:00 AM on their departure date. Kayaks can then be launched into Bartlett Cove and paddled toward the campground or the Beardslee Islands. Accessing the Beardslees is best by way of the Bartlett River with the high tide, rather than through Sitakaday Narrows with its more turbulet waters. Because of glacial rebound, we find the Bartlett River can be safely navigated only 1-2 hours either side of high tide, so your trip departure and return will need to be centered around that period. The Beardslees offer splendid beach camping and viewing of marine wildlife and birds. For placid paddling, solitude, lush beach and forest vegetation and varied wildlife, the Beardslees make a superb 2-4 day trip.
Important to note, because there are few water sources, you should plan on bringing along enough water capacity for your group for a two to three day trip into the Beardslees. We recommend one two-and-a-half gallon water bladder plus a quart bottle per person. You may fill up your water bladders at the NPS Visitor Information Station prior to departure.
Since the Beardslees offer no opportunity for glacier viewing, we encourage you to dedicate one day during your visit to take the tour boat to see the West Arm of Glacier Bay, the crown jewel of the National Park system. We're happy to make your reservations for a day cruise on the daily tour boat.
West Arm and Muir Inlet Kayaking
The nearest tidewater glaciers to Bartlett Cove are in the Muir Arm, about 50 miles away, and in the West Arm, about 65 miles away. Kayakers generally allow 5-8 days to paddle each way. By combining the camper transportation service provided by the daily tour boat with the calm conditions of the inlets up bay, less experienced kayakers can enjoy the wonders of Glacier Bay without enduring open water or major crossings. We can arrange one-way or round trip camper transport into either arm of the bay.
The daily tour boat departs Bartlett Cove at 7:30 AM and will drop off and pick up kayak campers between 9:00 AM and 1:30 PM, stopping at the East Arm site in the morning and the West Arm site following lunch and a tour of the Tarr Inlet glaciers. Drop off and pick ups are at the same scheduled time at each site daily. On the day of pick-up, campers are expected to be ready at the site one hour prior to the scheduled pick up time in case the boat is early. Sites are marked by rock cairns. The boat returns to Bartlett Cove by 3:30 PM on the day of your pickup.
One-way kayaker drop-offs or pick-ups allow you to enjoy an 8-10 day paddle back between Bartlett Cove and either arm of the bay. If you have less time and experience, you may be dropped off and then picked up again some days later. Combined with a round-trip camper drop off and pick up, plan a minimum 4-5 days for a West Arm paddle and 7-8 days for an East Arm paddle if you wish to paddle to glaciers.
Campers departing on the daily tour boat must attend the 5:00 PM kayak rental and instruction session the evening prior to their departure. You must meet with the NPS for your back country permit and Leave No Trace orientation, and paddle your kayak to the dock by early evening in preparation for the next morning's departure. Please note that the Alaska Airlines jet to Gustavus does not arrive in time for this orientation.
Be sure to look at our kayaker/camper Drop Off Point Map for current drop off locations for both the East and West Arms. You might also enjoy viewing this slide show of Ignacio and Louise's 1997 West Arm kayak trip to help you plan your Glacier Bay adventure.