Tongass National Forest

Paddling - Portage Routes for Kuiu Island
Gorp.com

The Tlingit people used portage routes on Kuiu Island to escape bad weather and avoid dangerous passages. They frequently kept additional boats at the ends of portages, as their wooden boats were not easy to carry. The Nastedi clan controlled access to No Name Bay in early historic times. They and other Tlingit clans used a portage route along Alecks creek from Elena Bay to No Name Bay. In 1985, the Forest Service brushed Alecks Creek and three other portage trails for use by canoeists and kayakers.

A. Affleck Canal Portage Trail (#618). . . Up to 2 days. Rich wildlife & beachcombing.

B. Alecks Creek Portage Trail (#616). . . Up to 5 days. Recommended only if you love bushwhacking. Difficult.

C. Bay of Pillars Portage Trail (#617). . . Up to 2 days. Mostly over road. Great wildlife.

D. Threemile Arm Portage Trail (#619). . . Up to 2 days mostly over road. Beware of bears.


A. Affleck Canal Portage Trail (#618)
This trail connects Affleck Canal with Petrof Bay and is primarily a portage trail for canoeists and kayakers. Plan for two days to complete the route.

Length (one way): 1.5 miles
Rating: Most Difficult
USGS Map: Port Alexander B-1

Access: The trailheads are at Affleck Canal and Petrof Bay. The Affleck Canal Portage Trail is part of a network of Kuiu Island portage trails that provides important links in canoe and kayak routes.

Description: Kayakers unable to paddle around Cape Decision because of bad weather use the Affleck Canal Portage Trail as a safe alternate route. Both trailheads are marked with red and white portage diamonds and the trail itself is marked with blue diamond trail markers. Because the trail is in designated Wilderness, it is maintained at a primitive level. It is only lightly brushed and sections can be very muddy.

The southern trailhead is at the very northern end of Affleck Canal. The trail winds through forest and muskeg for 0.75 mile up to a muskeg saddle. From the saddle, the trail descends to a beaver pond, then goes through a muskeg to a second beaver pond. The trail crosses the creek and continues through timber to the mouth of the creek in Petrof bay.

Attractions: During the summer, creeks at both ends host black bears in search of fish. Shore and land birds, wolves, and sea otters inhabit the area. Beach combing, especially along the northern shores of Affleck Canal, can be rewarding.

B. Alecks Creek Portage Trail (#616)
This trail connects No Name Bay and Elena Bay and is primarily a portage trail for canoeists and kayakers. The trail is brushy and difficult and may take even the most experienced portagers up to five days to complete.

Length (one way): 4 miles
Rating: Most Difficult
USGS Maps: Petersburg B-6 and C-6, and Port Alexander B-1 and C-1

Access: The trailheads are at No Name Bay and Elena Bay. The Alecks Creek Portage Trail is part of a network of Kuiu Island portage trails that provides important links in canoe and kayak routes. You can reach all four of the trails by canoeing or kayaking from the town of Kake, a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway.

Description: The trail registration box is on the west bank of the mouth of the creek that flows into the westernmost part of No Name Bay. The original first section of the trail follows the creek, crosses a beaver pond, then follows another creek drainage to Alecks Lake. However, a newly brushed route provides a slightly easier alternative to the original trail and is recommended. The alternative trail is marked with pink and blue flagging, but still requires a good map, compass, and reconnaissance skills. From the registration box, head east through forest and muskeg to a beaver pond. Cross the pond and continue north. The trail eventually passes east of Alecks Lake. Turn west off the trail through a large muskeg to the river feeding Alecks Lake and paddle the river to the lake. The turnoff is not marked so check map and compass often.

The trail continues from the southern end of Alecks Lake, at the small stream that drains the lake. The stream passes through a narrow, rocky ravine. Lowering boats through the ravine with a rope works best. After the ravine, you can paddle about half a mile through small lakes to the junction with Alecks Creek. Line boats downstream and carry them over or around obstacles. Thick undergrowth and wind-thrown trees along the creek bank make overland portaging difficult. It is one mile from the west end of the small lakes to the mouth of Alecks Creek in Elena Bay.

Attractions: Fishing is good from Alecks Lake to Tebenkof Bay and is excellent in Alecks Creek. Steelhead run up the creek in April and May, Sockeye in July, Pink in July and August, and Coho and Chum mid-August through October. Eagles and bears congregate along Alecks Creek during salmon migrations, and wolves frequent the shore of Alecks Lake.

C. Bay of Pillars Portage Trail (#617)
The trail connects Port Camden with Bay of Pillars and is primarily a portage trail for canoeists and kayakers. Most of the portage is over road.

Length (one way): 1.75 miles
Rating: More Difficult
USGS Map: Port Alexander C-1

Access: The trailheads are at Port Camden and Bay of Pillars. The Bay of Pillars Portage Trail is part of a network of Kuiu Island portage trails that provides important links in canoe and kayak routes.

Description: The trailhead at Port Camden is marked with a large white board. Both the trailhead at Bay of Pillars and the trail itself are marked with blue diamond markers. From Port Camden, the trail follows the creek to a stack of large fish egg-rearing boxes. You can paddle all the way to the boxes and sit at the end of a short spur road. Take a right on road #6402 and follow it west; off the road (watch for blue diamond trail mark) 500 feet down through the woods to Bay of Pill. Use caution when traveling road #6402 as it is an active logging road.

Attractions: Shore and land birds, wolves, and black bear live in the area.

History: The Tlingit people historically used portage routes on Kuiu Island to escape bad weather and avoid dangerous passages. More recently, residents of Kake used the Bay of Pillars to reach the Fidalgo Packing Company cannery where they worked during the summer season. They would boat to Port Camden, walk over the isthmus trail, and pick up boats in Bay of Pillars. From there they rowed to the cannery near the mouth of the bay. The Forest Service blazed the four Kuiu Island portage trails in 1985 for use by canoeists and kayakers.

D. Threemile Arm Portage Trail (#619)
This trail connects Port Camden with Threemile Arm and is primarily a portage trail for canoeists and kayakers. Most of the portage is over road.

Length (one way): 2 miles
Rating: More Difficult
USGS Map: Petersburg C-6

Access: The trailheads are at Threemile Arm and the southeast end of Port Camden. The Threemile Arm Portage Trail is part of a network of Kuiu Island portage trails that provides important links in canoe and kayak routes. You can reach each of the portages by canoeing or kayaking from the town of Kake, a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway.

Description: Both trailheads are marked with large red and white portage diamonds and the trail itself is marked with blue diamond portage trail markers. From the southeast end of Port Camden, head south to logging road #6402. Follow the road south and east to a road junction. Take the left road and follow it approximately 1 mile to a small inlet in Threemile Arm. Use caution when traveling road #6402 as it is an active logging road.

Note: During the summer, black bears frequent the vicinity of the portage trail. Make plenty of noise to let bears know you are in the area and always hang your food at night.

History: The Tlingits often used portage routes on Kuiu Island to escape bad weather and avoid dangerous passages. In 1774, members of George Vancouver's surveying party encountered Tlingit people in Port Camden who described an overland route from Port Camden to Threemile Arm. The Forest Service brushed and blazed the Threemile Arm and three other portage trails across Kuiu Island in 1985 for use by canoeists and kayakers.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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