Alaska is full of surprises and offers some of the most unique experiences when it comes to adventure and sightseeing. Adding to this list would be witnessing the biggest tidal bore in the U.S., and it can be found while traveling one of the most scenic drives in America.
If you’re not familiar with the area, this scenic drive will take you from Anchorage to Seward or Anchorage to Homer – the bore tide can be seen along Turnagain Arm.
Our hearts go out to the family affected by this recent tragedy. We hope to bring awareness to the dangers of the mud flats and why you should observe the bore tide from a distance.
You can read about what happened here.
Sounds like a tour stop to see the Alaska bore tide before you head back home!
Be sure to watch our video of the Bore Tide down below as well as our video showing why the mud flats are so dangerous and why you should stay away when the tide is out.
What Is The Alaska Bore Tide?
The bore tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens when a low tide and a high tide crash into each other and in turn, create a massive wave.
The size of this wave will be larger when there is a full or new moon, and also grows in size as it traverses through narrow passageways. During the highest tidal differential, surfers can also be spotted riding this wave.
This does not go without risk though, and unless you have proper training and gear this is not something you should attempt to do on your own.
In addition to watching this powerful wave make its way down the channel, this area also offers panoramic mountain views and rocky cliff sides that will exhilarate any nature enthusiast or adventure seeker’s senses.
Additionally, wildlife can also be seen during these opportunistic moments as harbor seals have been known to ride the tide in, while beluga whales can be spotted shortly thereafter.
As the tide goes out, you may find eagles or other shore birds looking for an easy meal.
This compilation video will show the different stages of the bore tide as it rushes in.
Where Can You See The Bore Tide In Alaska?
Luckily, this occurrence is actually very easy to spot as it travels the length of Turnagain Arm, which is nestled right up against the Seward Highway (AK-1) and offers many scenic viewing locations along the way.
Going southbound from Anchorage, one of the most popular and easily accessible stops will be Beluga Point. Here, you will be able to see the wave as it makes its journey in/out towards Anchorage.
As the name might suggest, it is also a popular viewing location to spot beluga whales, most commonly seen coming with the incoming tide.
Closer to Girdwood, there are numerous viewing locations such as Bird Point, or one of the 5 specially designated parking lots, all stretching over just 4 miles.
From one of these locations, you are more likely to get a closer viewing experience as well as see people riding the wave, as it becomes larger through the narrowing passageway.
When Can You See The Bore Tide?
The tide comes in and out twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. These times can vary drastically throughout the year, however, and may or not be visible based on daylight and the conditions within the channel.
The best time to view the bore tide is usually in the warmer months, as there is more daylight and there will not be ice that minimizes the size and impact of the wave.
A schedule showing a complete listing of days and times where the bore tide can be seen at one of the 5 main pullouts can be found here.
These locations are about 20 minutes south of Beluga Point and 45 minutes south of Anchorage. Forecasted times are pretty reliable, however it is suggested to arrive about 30 minutes prior to ensure you don’t miss anything!
The website will also show a breakdown of how big the tide is predicted to be, so you can plan accordingly.
The Dangers Of The Bore Tide & The Mud Flats
Experiencing the power of the bore tide can be very exhilarating and you may end up wanting to get closer to the shore or explore the beaches afterwards.
Although this can be very inviting at times, it can also be extremely dangerous. If you are going to watch the bore tide from an overlook, make sure you stay well above the shoreline and above all the rocks. The water rushes in with a very powerful force, sweeping everything away in its path, creating a strong undercurrent and flooding any existing crevasses or openings.
There have been many reports of people being pulled out during a tidal bore, never to be seen again.
A more common occurrence happens when people begin to explore the areas known as the mud flats and end up getting trapped in the quicksand-like glacial silt.
It creates a very strong suction and the more you try to move, the more you begin to sink. This often results in becoming so engulfed in the mud that you will need to be rescued.
In very unfortunate circumstances, these rescues are unable to be completed before the tide returns, thus resulting in a very slow and traumatic drowning experience.
These deadly mudflats are found at the Knik Arm, Cook Inlet and along Turnagain Arm, so be sure to avoid them and stay out.
The video below demonstrates exactly how the mud holds water and when force is applied, objects begin to sink while the mud closes in around it.
It is very hard to pull yourself out of these kinds of situations so it is suggested to ditch whatever shoes you may be wearing in an effort to release your foot.
Alaska is a beautiful place, full of adventure and exploration. It is also very unforgiving, so it is important to always be prepared and understand the power behind the bore tide.
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