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Cruising off the Beaten Path in SE Alaska: Baranof Island

Beth Cooper

Sarah Jean II
Saga 43
March 31st, 2018

This is the third and last in the series of articles “Cruising Off the Beaten Track in SE Alaska”. Last time we left you in Pelican, a remote fishing village. This time around we are taking you on a voyage to explore Baranof Island.


Do you love to soak in hot springs? Then Warm Springs Bay is for you! There are natural outdoor pools for soaking, an easy hike up from the public dock.  On the boardwalk there are also private bath houses, each with their own bathtub. Fill your tub with hot water from the springs and enjoy your soak (naked) with a view of your boat in the anchorage. Heavenly!

Enjoying the hot springs water from the comfort of the bath houses

We arrived in Warm Springs Bay ironically on the hottest day of our summer in SE Alaska. We were determined, however, to enjoy a hot tub. First we needed to find a place to anchor the boat. After a quick drive by past the public dock, it was evident there wasn’t room for us there.  There were fishing trawlers, seiners and sports fishermen rafted two and three boats deep. They had come to enjoy the hot springs as well, in between their salmon openings. There were lawn chairs out on the dock with people socializing, enjoying a cocktail and the unusually warm SE Alaskan weather.

Fishing trawlers

We circled the anchorage in Sarah Jean II, taking soundings, trying to find a spot under 100’! Warm Springs is a small and deep bay. We were glad we arrived by mid afternoon as we were the first boat to anchor in the Bay so we could pick our spot. The skies were blue, the sun was shining and the falls at the end of the Bay were spectacular. We could hardly wait to get the hook down and enjoy the hot weather. We found a spot just off the point at 37’, but as we set out our rode the depth climbed to 88’. We were secure, however, and there was no wind and very little current in our spot. There was more current from the waterfalls closer to the dock.  Time for a G&T!

The community of Baranof is very small, with only a handful of cabins. We met one family who were carrying supplies up to their cabin. They had made the three hour trip by power boat from Sitka for the long weekend. There apparently used to be a store, but it is no longer there. A boardwalk connects the cabin to the public dock. There is no cell reception in Warm Springs Bay, so you are officially off the grid!

The next morning we decided to check out the natural hot springs first. We passed the pretty Baranof Lake on the way to the pools. If you have visited Hot Springs Cove on the west coast of Vancouver Island, these hot pools are similar. They are located beside a raging river, which made a spectacular scene.

Enjoying the hot springs

As we walked back down the hill to the community of Baranof, we noticed a majestic schooner coming into Warm Springs Bay. What a beauty! And she’s Canadian! It was Maple Leaf. This historic 92’ yacht was built in 1904 in Vancouver and currently runs Eco tours up the BC and Alaska coast. We met the captain and crew and many of the on-board customers, who raved about their experience on the Maple Leaf. It was a treat to share an anchorage with her.

Now it was time for our private tub in the bath houses near the dock. It felt so good to soak in a bath again, after months away on the boat, with only scant “boat showers” available to us. I sat in the tub and watched Sarah Jean II at anchor, thinking about how much I loved this place. Right then and there it became one of my favourite places “off the beaten path in SE Alaska”.

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