From: Jim Morris
Subject: Trip Report for Kasegaluk Lagoon; July 18-25, 1978
As part of the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service's evaluation of
recreation, wilderness, and scenic values contained in the National Petroleum
Reserve -Alaska, an interagency field inspection of Kasegaluk Lagoon from
Wainwright to Icy Cape was made.
NOTE: These reports may not contain
important information about: 1) safety, 2) land management and ownership, 3)
fishing and other regulations and 4) possible errors >
Participating in the inspection were:
Bill Ewing - Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage
Jim Larson - National Park Service, Anchorage
Brian McMillen - Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage
Jim Morris - Heritage Conservation & Recreation Service
Two Klepper Aerius 20 (double seater, folding) kayaks were used on the trip.
After carrying our gear to the beach, assembling the kayaks and loading the
gear, we launched the boats and began the trip at 8:00 a.m. A beautiful day to
begin a trip with mostly clear sky, noontime temperature of 54oF and a mild wind
blowing from the NE at our backs. The sea was relatively calm with swells only
about two feet high and perhaps three feet in front of Wainwright Inlet. Water
temperature was 43oF. The conditions in the Arctic Ocean are not always this
favorable for small boats. The gentle northeasterly wind at our backs greatly
aided the paddling. We reached our first night campsite at 4:30 with about six
hours of paddling and traveled about 13 miles. The easterly wind however had
also pushed the ice pack several miles from shore so that it was out of our view
during the entire trip.
South of Wainwright Inlet we passed three separate fish camps, two of which were
each occupied by three families. We spoke with some of the people who are
residents of Wainwright and learned that they were now collecting mostly seals
and fish (including pink salmon and Arctic char) and had been taking walrus when
the ice pack was closer to shore. We also encountered three powerboats with
hunters and their families.
Wildlife sighted included five to six individual caribou, several whales
(probably beluga), and four snowy owls (list of bird species follows this
Although still mostly clear skies the air temperature was cooler today and the
northeasterly wind stronger. We experienced swells up to three to four feet on
the ocean. Whale watching was very good as we saw several a few hundred yards
offshore swimming north. We also saw one seal and about 12 caribou along the
beach. We traveled about 13 miles to Pingorok Pass where we entered Kasegaluk
Lagoon. The barrier island is only about 75 yards wide. Sand and pea gravel and
little or no vegetation cover the surface. Mosquitoes were surprisingly thick
along the coast when there was no wind. However, relief from the mosquitoes is
usually possible on the barrier island, which is fully exposed to the wind.
Except for a brief rain during the night, good weather prevails. Temperature
remains in high 50 ' s, partial cloud covering, and northeasterly wind. We found
the lagoon much easier to paddle in with no swells and only small waves. We
traveled to the Nokotlek River and up the river three miles. The river was too
shallow for travel any further with the kayaks. The river water was still
brackish so drinking water had to be gathered from an interior lake. Wildlife
observed included three Arctic fox near their den, four snowy owls, and eight
caribou. We saw fish jumping in the river but did not identify. We traveled 12
miles, including six miles on the river.
Weather deteriorated during the night resulting in periods of fog, rain,
overcast skies and cooler temperatures. This weather stayed with us for the next
four days. The water surface of the lagoon was very smooth during the morning
hours. Wildlife sighted included two Arctic fox, several snowy owls, and some
caribou. We traveled nine miles and camped northeast of Nevat Point.
We traveled a distance of ten miles today and camped just inside Avak Inlet on
east side. We saw one grizzly bear at Nevat Point while exploring the area. He
moved quickly away as soon as he became aware of our presence.
Today we boated through Avak Inlet and about two miles up Tunalik River. The
inlet is a very interesting place to explore. We saw two grizzly bears near
mouth of inlet, six or more harbor seals in the narrow neck half way through the
inlet, a family of six Arctic fox near their den, and several caribou including
a band of about 25. We walked into a lake northeast of the river to collect
fresh water and to try the fishing. The fishing was unsuccessful. Paddling back
to camp was a chore in the thick fog and against the wind, which felt like it
was coming directly off the ice pack.
This morning we greeted a band of about 50 caribou standing on the beach about
50 yards from camp. Another group of eight walked up the beach from the opposite
direction later in the morning.
Today was to have been a leisurely boating trip to Icy Cape with lots of time to
explore the Cape. However, we encountered unexpected difficulty within the
lagoon near the Cape. The tide, which ranges from eight to eleven inches along
the Arctic coast (greater range during storm influenced tides), was out. The
tidal flat is mud rather than sand, and almost impossible to walk upon. One
quickly sinks up to his knees in the mud and could become stuck. Subsequently it
is impossible to portage through the area or line the boats through, at least
during low tide. The tide remained low through the following day. We made it
only as far as an island in Section 28, T 11N, R39W, before turning around.
After paddling 13 miles we ended up about five miles from our previous camp on
the barrier island opposite from the mouth of Avak Inlet. We portaged the boats
and gear across the island to the ocean side and camped here. Temperature was in
the high 30's.
Weather changed to the warm, mostly clear skies that we enjoyed during beginning
of trip. The ocean was fairly smooth and ideal for travel. East of Icy Cape we
watched several grey whales within 150 yards of shore and occasionally within 50
yards of our boats. We also saw one harbor seal southwest of the Cape and
several caribou paraded by on the mainland south of Icy Cape. We reached the
airstrip at Icy Cape via Icy Cape Pass. Even with the low tide we were able to
paddle to within 200 yards of the strip. Although we didn't have time to explore
the Cape, it appears to be a very interesting place with flocks of sea birds
congregating in the area, marine mammals swimming by, and evidence of a history
of human use.
At 3:20p.m. we were picked up by two aircraft a C-207 and C-185 and returned to
Wainwright. The airstrip at Icy Cape is 2,400 feet long.
Kasegaluk Lagoon and the ocean coast, as long as there is not stormy weather, is
a good place for a recreational kayak trip. The prevailing wind is from the
northeast, so the best direction to travel is from Wainwright towards Icy Cape.
Although we did not have one, a sail would be very useful on the kayak. A rudder
was practically a necessity. If travelers wanted to bypass the ocean and start
the trip within the lagoon (bad weather might force travelers to do this), they
might be able to hire someone from Wainwright to take them down by motorboat.
Also, most of the barrier islands are suitable for landing planes such as a
C-185. Camping sites along the barrier islands and along the mainland shoreline
are essentially unlimited. Firewood (driftwood), however, is abundant only in
intermittent places. Drinking water needs to be packed from nearby interior
lakes and should be purified before use. Also, selecting camp sites should also
be done carefully so as to avoid disturbance to any of the several
archaeological sites (frequently located on points of land and often consisting
of sod house ruins) and to avoid conflicting with local subsistence campsites.
About 20 miles of shoreline south of Wainwright is private land owned by the
Village of Wainwright.
To camp anywhere along this shoreline, permission should be received from the
Village Corporation. The logical pick-up point is the airstrip on the mainland
southwest of Icy Cape. However, during low tide and possibly at other times, it
is not possible to paddle through the lagoon near the Cape. It is recommended
that travelers cross the barrier island opposite from Avak Lagoon, pass around
the north end of Icy Cape and approach the airstrip from the west.
Birds Identified During Field Investigation*
Black legged kittiwake
"Compiled by Bill Ewing and Jim Larson
NOTE: These reports may not
contain important information about: 1) safety, 2) land management and ownership, 3) fishing and other
regulations and 4) possible errors >
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