Another beautiful morning aboard the National Geographic Quest began with dappled sunlight and wispy clouds hanging in the trees. We sailed into Sitkoh Bay on the southeastern most extension of Chichagof Island.

Historically, this bay was the site of an indigenous village of about 1,000 inhabitants. A contingent of Angoon Tlingit people settled here and built a fortress after successfully escaping a Russian bombardment of Sitka in 1804. More recently, in 1900, a fish cannery was opened and took advantage of the nearby sockeye salmon run in Sitkoh River.

The afternoon took us to the northeastern part of Baranof Island, Hanus Bay, and the Lake Eva Trail along a stream of the same name. Guests had opportunities to paddle the shoreline in plentiful sunlight and look for invertebrates in the rocky nooks and crannies. We also hiked up to the lake via a well-maintained trail and were treated to an amazing bear experience. Guests and staff alike watched in amazement as a brown bear waded and splashed his way up the stream. Multiple species of salmon were on their way up the river, and our bear friend wasn’t shy about trying his luck at fishing.

The salmon are a vital part of the Southeast Alaska ecosystem. It’s not only bears that benefit from the salmon migration. Trees will absorb nutrients from leftover salmon discarded by bears and other animals in the understory. After an exciting day, a highlight is always coming back onboard and sharing the stories of each person’s experience.

Photos and text by Travis Patten, Naturalist.