Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm

Anchorage Travel Blog

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Leigh and I were now on our own in the most awe-inspiring place in the world ~ Alaska.  After a hearty breakfast at one of Anchorage's small family-owned diners, I turned our rental SUV south towards the Kenai Penisula.    We were now riding along the Seward Highway, following the curvature of the Cook Inlet shoreline and Turnagain Arm, a narrow channel that is home to the most powerful bore tide (better known as a tidal wave) in the world.  A bore tide, in this particular situation, is a tide that rushes into the Arm from Cook Inlet at a speed of 10 MPH and creates a wall of water up to eight feet high.  Very much like a small tsunami and very dangerous.  Another potentially life-threatening characteristic of Turnagain Arm is the wide beach, which isn't a beach at all but a mudscape that can swallow you up like quicksand.  At low tide, the Arm is almost completely void of water and the mud looks serene and solid.  But don't be fooled.  If you stand in one place and wiggle your feet, you will sink.  Then emergency responders will have to be called and .....   just use your imagination.  But some folks don't get rescued before the the tides returns.  Only two years before our visit, a woman and her husband were riding their four-wheeler across the "beach" and just enjoying the day ~ until the woman stepped off the ATV and into the mud.  She was immediately held tight and no pulling or tugging would dislodge her.  Sadly, the emergency crews were unable to set her free before the tide came in and ..... she drowned. 

Besides the bore tide and the mudflats, the Cook Inlet is home to one of Alaska's two pods of beluga whales.  The other pod can be found in the Bering Sea and we weren't going there today.   Five or six of the graceful creatures were swimming right up next to the shoreline in shallow water.   They come in every day with the high tide, following their dinner of schooling fish into the inlet.   The Cook Inlet pod of belugas has been estimated to be between 400 to 500 individuals.  I drove onto the pull-out area, where Leigh and I jumped from the car to get a closer look at these smallest of whales.  To our disappointment, they were soon out of sight.


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photo by: anupa_rk