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Yakutat Tern Fest
Field Trips
General Information

A festival-goer relaxes on the beach at Harlequin Lake.

General Information

The Yakutat Tern Festival has traditionally provided opportunity for festival participants to see different areas of Yakutat. Day trips are typically centered around activities such as birdwatching, tidepooling, nature hikes, beach-combing, and more! The Tern Fest schedule will include trips for kids and adults, so be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming events. 

Featured Day Trip: Hubbard Glacier Boat Tour!

The YNS is pleased to announce the inclusion of the Hubbard Glacier Boat Tour in the

2024 13th Annual Yakutat Tern Festival!

Three tours, two morning and one afternoon, will run on Friday May 31st and Saturday June 1st.

For more information, including pricing, please follow the link below.

Read on to find out more about the Hubbard Glacier.

Min. 4 pax for each tour to go.

As part of each year's Tern Fest celebration, the YNS coordinates a boat tour to visit the historic Hubbard Glacier off the coast of Yakutat. At 6-7 miles wide, over 70 miles long, and rising 30 stories above the ocean waves, the Hubbard is the largest tidewater glacier in North America.

Hubbard Glacier has twice closed off Russell Fjord, both times creating the largest glacier-formed lake in the world. The U.S. Forest Service covered the events in their Region 10 Tongass Highlights:

More than 70 miles long, the Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat has been advancing since 1900. In 1986, Hubbard Glacier closed the entrance to Russell Fiord, blocking the flow of the fiord into Disenchantment Bay. The water level in Russell Lake rose to an elevation of 83 feet over sea level to create the world largest glacier-formed lake. A few weeks later, the ice dam abruptly broke, and the lake.

Photo of Hubbard Glacier by Brady Skidmore.

Photo of Hubbard Glacier by Brady Skidmore.

In June 2002, Hubbard Glacier again closed the entrance to Russell Fiord, but this time, only moraine blocked the fiord. The water level in Russell Lake rose to 61 feet above sea level. The dam broke in August.

Glaciologists believe that Hubbard Glacier will block Russell Fiord again, but they cannot predict when this event may happen. Should a stable ice dam form, and if the lake level rises to an elevation of 131 feet, water would overflow the southern end of the lake into the headwaters of the Situk River, a world-renowned steelhead and salmon stream. The Situk River is the main sport, commercial, and subsistence fishery in Yakutat. Impact on the Situk River would most certainly affect the livelihood of the people of Yakutat. The fish, wildlife, archeological and other cultural resources would be affected, along with the area transportation facilities, ground water and vegetation.

Because of the potential consequences, the glacier behavior is being watched by citizens as well as government agencies.

Hubbard Glacier receives Tern Fest visitors.

On Friday, June 3rd, 2022, the Yakutat Tern Fest ran two Hubbard Glacier boat tours, one in the morning and one in the evening. Both tours took around 4 hours round trip, and treated passengers to untouched, mountainous landscapes and wildlife such as sea lions, sea otters, porpoises, a variety of sea birds, and more. On site, viewers had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the Hubbard Glacier calving into Disenchantment Bay.

Continue reading about other Yakutat Tern Fest field trips below!

2024 Festival Day Trips

Participants take a nature hike during a phone camera photography workshop with Lynn Schooler: Alaskan Author, Photographer, and Wilderness Guide in 2018.

Harlequin Lake Scenery and
Wildlife Viewing
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Time: 4 hours 

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Transportation: Van, foot

Description: This trip will travel out Forest Highway 10 to the Dangerous River Bridge and Harlequin Lake Trail. A short (3/4 mile) hike from here ends at the southern shore of Harlequin Lake. The scenery alone makes this trip a must-see! Harlequin Lake is the headwaters of the Dangerous River. Massive icebergs, calved from Yakutat Glacier, can be seen floating from shore. Yakutat Glacier is visible across the lake. Those not wishing to hike have the option to stop at the Dangerous River Bridge, which also offers views of the outlet of the lake and icebergs (occasionally floating down the river!). Time permitting, this field trip will also stop at various habitats along the way back to town. 

Tern Viewing

Time: 3 hours

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Transportation: Passenger vehicle and foot.

Description: This trip will start at the Ankau River, including a hike along the river up to the open waters of Monti Bay. For those not wishing to walk far, a short walk to the beach from the parking area will yield spectacular views and bird viewing opportunities in Monti Bay. A variety of waterfowl species are viewable in the Ankau River, with Arctic terns nesting and foraging nearby. Monti bay is a great place for viewing seabirds, such as a variety of gulls, scoters, and cormorants. Common loons are abundant year round, and Pacific loons are common migrants. Watch for rarities such as Kittlits, murrelets, and Yellow-billed loons. On a clear day, the scenery alone makes this trip worthwhile, offering a spectacular view of Monti Bay and the Mt. St. Elias Range. *Aleutian terns may also be present*

Birding via Kayak in the Mouth of the Situk River

Time: 4-5 hours 
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Transportation: Van, kayak
Description:  Weather permitting, this trip will depart via kayaks from the mouth of the Situk River. There will be copious birding opportunity in this area. Space is limited due to limited availability of kayaks: advance registration recommended (please see r
egistration form on this website).  This trip is contingent on interest and advance registration, and is also weather dependent. This trip is recommended for participants with basic kayaking skills/experience.  



*This trip is TBD for 2024.

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Time: 2 hours

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Transportation: Passenger vehicle and foot.

Description: Trip route TBD.

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