Wilderness trip report: up the Taku River from Juneau, Alaska

In Adventure, Uncategorized by scott

Barely 20 miles out of Juneau is some of the wildest country you’ll ever see. But you can’t drive there. You have to get there by boat, plane or helicopter. 

We opted for a boat. A friend’s boat, actually. One of my good friends, Jack Manning, is active in a local outdoor-enthusiast’s group: The Territorial Sportsmen. This group builds and maintains cabins on public lands for sportsmen, hikers and adventurers. Here’s a picture of his boat, anchored in the Taku River:

After setting out from Douglas Harbor, across the bridge from Juneau, our first landfall was at the Taku Glacier Cabin. The cabin has a full-on view of the Taku River, Taku Glacier and neighboring Norris Glacier. Here’s a nice shot of Norris Glacier from the beach:

There are four bunks in the cabin. We were traveling with an entire gaggle of young adventurers, so they spread out all over the bunks, the floor–anywhere. 

In addition to the well-kept cabin, which includes a diesel-powered stove, there are ADA-compliant ramps from the cabin to the beach and to the porta-potty. Check it out:

The cost? $35 per day. Learn more online

The cabin and the surroundings were full of blueberry bushes. The kids were busy picking and eating the berries, saving a  few for blueberry pancakes, which we cooked over the fire.

Three kayakers joined us for dinner–and they camped nearby. Here’s a shot. Note the cabin in the background:

They were on a 50-day journey from Wrangell to Juneau, camping and paddling their way up the coast. What a trip! 

The next day:

After packing up, cleaning up and chopping more firewood for the next guest, we had the children blow up the raft to get the boat, which we anchored in the river. Note the h-u-g-e Taku Glacier in the background. Work, work, work! HA!

We left Taku Glacier Cabin for the nearby West Turner Lake Cabin. It was just a short trip downstream to the Turner River, where we anchored the boat and marched less than a mile up to the cabin on the lake. Check it out:

It was clear the maintenance crews had just been there. There were new counters inside the cabin and new siding on the outside. There was a diesel stove in addition to an oversized stone fireplace, which we used to cook up some salmon. There was a rowboat (with life preservers) so you can paddle around the lake and fish for Dolly Varden trout! Here, a couple of the kids were fishing for trout:

There also are local cut-throat trout–but it’s strictly catch-and-release. Again, the cost for the cabin is a whopping $35 per night. When you’re there, be sure and read the journals detailing the adventures of folks who”ve stayed there before! I love this one “We’re so happy to be back at our summer cabin. We share it with the U.S. Government.” True story! These are your cabins. Get out there and use them! The Turner Lake cabins (there’s another one at the other end of the lake) are easily accessible by float plane. 

Learn more online.

Back in Juneau, we’re happy to get a shower. But wow–what an adventure! Make plans now, since these cabins are popular. If you wonder why folks live in Alaska–these cabins are a big reason: you’re in the middle of paradise! 

Gear notes: 

a. Bring your own water. You can boil lake water if you need more. 

b. Don’t forget the coffee (like we did). 

c. Bring your own portable lights, such as headlamps or lanterns. 

d. Of course, you have to bring your own bedding, including sleeping pads. But the stove keeps the cabin warm (bring your own #1 Diesel fuel), so no need to being a super-warm sleeping bag. 

e. Bring a sharp hatchet to split firewood for your own use and for the next guests.  

f. Bring your camera. 

g. You’re traveling in bear country. We packed a 12-gauge shotgun. Whether you load slugs or shot is up to you. We had slugs. We didn’t see any bears–but be prepared. There was bear sign everywhere. Tracks. Scat. Trails. Everything. The bears are everywhere. Here, we’re hiking in Bear Country. Note the short-barrel shotgun on the right:

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