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 arm has impressive tides, and notably, the second-largest bore tide in North America. These bore tides can reach up to 40 feet, and move at an impressive 30 miles per hour (an average tide flows at 10 to 15 miles an hour). 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, 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. Belugas are 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 take in this increasingly rare sight. For reasons that are still unclear to scientists, Southcentral's beluga population has declined from 1,300 in 1980 to fewer than 290 today.