Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound, and Homer Sights

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Turnagain Arm

Turnagain Arm Review

Several hiking trails are accessible from the Seward Highway, including the steep paths up Falls Creek and Bird Ridge. Both offer spectacular views of Turnagain Arm, where explorer Captain Cook searched for the Northwest Passage. Local lore has it that the arm is so named because Cook entered it repeatedly, only to be forced to turn back by the huge tide. The tide is so powerful it sometimes rushes up the arm as a tidal bore—a wall of water that goes up an inlet. An increasingly popular, yet somewhat dangerous, sport is windsurfing the tidal bore. To view the bore tide, station yourself at one of the turnoffs along the arm about 2½ hours after low tide in Anchorage—tide books are available at sporting goods shops, grocery stores, and bookstores, or you can find tide information on the Web.

During the summer months beluga whales are frequent visitors to the arm as they patrol the muddy waters in search of salmon and hooligan, a variety of smelt. The whales travel in pods of adult and juvenile animals, the adults distinguishable by their bright white color. They're smaller than other whales that frequent Alaska's coastal waters, reaching only 15 feet in length and weighing up to a ton. During high tide from July to August, when the surface of the water is calm, belugas are often spotted from the highway, frequently causing traffic jams as tourists and residents pull off the road for a chance to view the whales as they travel up and down the shoreline. It's an increasingly special thing to spot a beluga here; for reasons that are still unclear to scientists, South Central's beluga population has declined from 1,300 in 1980 to fewer than 375 in 2010.

Updated: 06-12-2013

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