Alaska Baranof Island

Splish, Splash, Takin' a Bath

Saturday, November 28, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

There are so many things we love about cruising in the Pacific Northwest – glaciers, fjords and white sand beaches to name a few. But one thing that tops both of our lists is natural hot springs. David and I can’t get enough of them but for different reasons. I love being in the water and have been accused of being a fish a time or two in the past. The only problem is I’m more of a pool person. If I can’t see the bottom, I’m really not that interested (I blame the movie “Jaws”). David, on the other hand, could care less about swimming but loves a good soak in a hot bath.

We’ll go out of our way to visit a hot spring, which is the main reason we considered sailing down the west coast of Chichagof and Baranof Islands – there are at least two of them. But the Chatham Strait side isn’t without its fair share. We passed on the opportunity to visit the pools in Tenakee Springs even though we were anchored inside the inlet for a couple of days because it’s described as a public bathhouse with separate hours for men and women (not really our cup of tea). But we weren’t going to say no to Baranof Warm Springs – a popular layover for cruising and fishing boats.

But, once again, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Honestly, I felt a little sad about leaving Ell Cove. It’s a beautiful, well-protected anchorage with plenty of interesting places nearby to explore by kayak. But then again, maybe it was the forecast that had me down: Rain. Rain. And a chance of . . . (wait for it) rain! It’s one of the last things you want to hear on the first sunny day you’ve seen in over a week. But it is what it is, and we are where we’re going . . . which wasn’t very far.  

One of the best things about this section of the coast is the distance between anchorages – they’re short. With only 10 miles to travel, we’d no sooner got back out into Chatham Strait before it was time to make the turn into Warm Springs Bay. It was a really nice change from the eight hour days we’d grown accustomed to over the last couple of months. 


The community of Baranof.

Like so many of the small communities that were formed along the coast of Southeast Alaska, Baranof had a reputation of being wild, particularly during prohibition. But in the 1930s, life got a little quieter. Residents earned a living fishing, trapping and logging. A sawmill powered by the falls was built and then came a general store/post office, a bakery, a herring reduction plant, all of which are gone now. Today the population is made up of a dozen or more private homes that are used during the summer months and people stopping by to visit the hot springs

There are a couple of options in Baranof: two natural hot spring pools on the hill up from the dock and a bathhouse which sits at the top of the gangway. Normally, the former would be my preference and David’s would be the latter, but this time we both agreed – the bathhouse!


The natural hot springs.

The springs are located about a half mile from the dock along a short trail that splits off from the boardwalk and leads uphill to the river. Fed by a series of hot springs upstream, the two pools sit adjacent to the outflow of the Baranof River, one of the best backdrops to a natural hot spring we’ve yet to encounter (I’d say Eucott Bay comes in a close second). But at around 125°F, I found the water to be a little too hot to enjoy.  





The bathhouse.

The water temperature in the bathhouse, on the other hand, is just right. But if it’s still too warm, cold water fed from a stream can be turned on and added to the mix. There are three private rooms, each with a tub large enough for two and a beautiful view of the bay. And unlike at the natural pools, you can use soap and shampoo in the bathhouse, a really nice change for cruisers in search of something more than a navy shower (which we were).  



We spent three days soaking in the tubs and enjoying life on the busy dock, meeting fellow-cruisers and getting some ideas about anchorages we should visit before we have to be in Wrangell in two weeks time. We could have stayed forever, but the latest round of bad weather had quickly cleared out and we needed to do the same – there was still so much we wanted to see and do.

Note: This blog entry was written on Friday, 24 July 2015.

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