Paddling in Valdez

Paddle Valdez 6Paddle Valdez 1There are lots of great opportunities for paddling in Valdez, both on your own and as part of guided tour groups. We chose two lakes on two different days: the Valdez Glacier Lake and Robe Lake.


Paddle Valdez 27The Valdez Glacier was the main trail for prospectors headed into gold fields in the interior of Alaska, this trail was named the All-American route due to the fact that prospectors did not have to cross Canada into Alaska.

Paddle Valdez 3Due to Valdez being the northern most ice free port, this was as close as you could get to the interior during the spring months when travel was possible over the glaciers of the Chugach range.Paddle Valdez 13

Our new rubber boots

Our new rubber boots for the COLD water

Over many years, the Valdez glacier has retreated, mostly due to surface melt and thinning.Paddle Valdez 9

Paddle Valdez 12Paddle Valdez 16We drove over to check out the Valdez Glacier Lake, where the glacier located, and briefly spoke with one of the tour guides that was just heading out. The lake seemed like a fairly easy and very interesting paddle.

Paddle Valdez 10

Paddle Valdez 21On the day we went out on the lake, another group was heading out and so we kayaked on the opposite shore.

At one point we met up with the group and found out that one of the paths they normally go on to see ice caves was impassable due to ice having narrowed the gap – darn!Paddle Valdez 22

Paddle Valdez 19The advantage of going with the group is that they do know how to find ice caves and which ones are safe to enter.  But we chatted with the guides and they were generous with their knowledge.Paddle Valdez 17

The group went on a hike on the glacier so we had the lake to ourselves once again.

It was an amazing paddle amongst icebergs and ice caves and of course the Chugach Mountains.Paddle Valdez 15

Much of the glacier is dirty with sediment and not very scenic, but there are beautiful blue and sparkling clear sections as well.Paddle Valdez 25

Paddle Valdez 18We explored in and around the glacier and several large icebergs. As we paddled around we saw and heard little streams of water melting and little “ice cubes” rolling down the glacier into the water. It was a surreal experience.Paddle Valdez 34Paddle Valdez 35

Paddle Valdez 33Paddle Valdez 11Paddle Valdez 31Paddle Valdez 23Paddle Valdez 7Then, on the other side of the lake, as we paddled by a waterfall, I accidentally came too close to a seagull’s nest and was attacked! Actually a mock charge, but she was mad and screaming. Oops. We spotted several nests, some quite close to the water.Paddle Valdez 30Paddle Valdez 28Paddle Valdez 29

A truly spectacular paddle.

Paddle Valdez 37Paddle Valdez 38Our second paddle was on Robe Lake, known for lots of birdlife and the occasional moose. Apparently, a bit later in the season it is quite a popular spot with the jet ski crowd.Paddle Valdez 40

Since it was a weekday, we were hoping for 0 jet skis. As we approached the parking area, there was one solitary seaplane on the shore. They had stopped for the night.Paddle Valdez 41

Paddle Valdez 50We were on our own out on the lake. Robe Lake is surrounded by lush green mountains, and brimming with lily pads and other plants. So much so, that there was a machine sitting in the lake that looked like some sort of plant cutting device.Paddle Valdez 49

Paddle Valdez 58The lake is bordered by bright green grasses and has a few nooks and crannies where you can paddle in amongst the grasses. We saw one kayaker at the opposite side of the lake heading back to shore, otherwise we were on our own.Paddle Valdez 52

Paddle Valdez 42Across from the launch area and up on a hill, sits the luxurious Robe Lake Lodge, which apparently caters to heli-skiers in the winter.

We found a side channel that went for quite a long ways until it got way too narrow. But along the way we saw and heard lots of birds. Unfortunately, no moose.Paddle Valdez 43

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Paddle Valdez 47Back out on the main lake, a couple of loons started making their interesting calls when they saw us.Paddle Valdez 45

Paddle Valdez 51And as we neared the shore, we encountered one family in a canoe and a kayak. I imagine on the weekends, it is not quite that quiet on this lake.

We would definitely go back to both of these lakes, both were spectacular in their own way.

~ BrendaPaddle Valdez 53

14 thoughts on “Paddling in Valdez

  1. Awesome paddling spots..I wonder was it easy to get turned around with the ice or did you always know where you were?

    • Valdez Glacier Lake is relatively compact, and the surrounding mountains give you a point of reference, so it is relatively easy to navigate.

  2. My daughter did this paddle when she was in college, over 20 years ago, and the glacier was much cleaner and much larger then. That water makes for a cold butt and legs. Love the pics.

    • Yes, I read that it has changed quite a bit in the last twenty years in fact. We wore rain pants and rubber boots (purchased for $17.95), big difference!

  3. Great paddles!! The lakes were so different. Getting so close to the icy edges of Glacier Lake was very cool! I was surprised to see all the grass and lily pads in Robe Lake. I guess I still expected ice and snow. Memoriable expereinces for sure:)

    • Yes, the fact that it’s in that Pacific temperate rainforest makes for some lush beautiful places. Pretty interesting.

  4. Gorgeous kayaking! Definitely going to do that — and we’ll take your advice about the rain pants and rubber boots. We only have a tandem recreational kayak. I wonder if it will be sea worthy for the cold Alaska waters? We use it in protected bays in the San Juan Islands, but rent sea kayaks if we’re heading out into the ocean.

    • Yes. We got our rain pants years ago before our first visit to Alaska, which was a cruise/land portion, mine are Helly Hansen and I like them. Hector’s are a cheaper brand – White Sierra, but he is ok with them. We didn’t want to spend a lot because we have limited use for them. The rubber boots we bought in Valdez for $18.95, and they are fine. There are some very nice quality boots out there but they run $100+ and again, we have limited use for them.
      Our kayaks are best for flat water, rated a little above recreational because they are 14′ long and used for fishing although we don’t fish. They are sit on tops. We like lakes and protected bays as well, and are very conscious of weather and try to avoid high wind situations, although we have been in some, but generally too far from shore. We don’t generally go out into the open ocean in them.

  5. I was just telling Terry yesterday that I so miss kayaking. We will be heading to Olympic NP so I hope to change that soon. How fascinating to kayak alongside a glacier. Glad to hear that mamma seagull only did a mock charge.

  6. Hola, Amigos! Lovely update, as ever. Your glacial experience reminds us of our trek on Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier this winter… WAY cool! And yes, we were amazed to see that the glacier is ba-jillions of tiny ice cubes! Who knew??? Since I have to be sitting at my desk, I’m loving living vicariously through you —- ROCK ON!!!! Godspeed. xo

    • Great that you got to see a glacier in Argentina, they are way cool! Glad you are still with us on our journey. Hugs to all.

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