You’ll start your journey from the docks of Ketchikan, Alaska, where there are plenty of outfitters willing to rent boats to experienced paddlers looking to make the 14-mile out and back trip.
Starting from the docks of Ketchikan, paddle across the Tongass Narrows towards Pennock Island. Watch out for boats large and small — this will be the only busy crossing of the trip. Once you cross the Narrows, you can choose whether to continue to paddle along the near or far side of Pennock. We recommend paddling around the north tip of the island and past Snow Cove to the far side of the island for a more scenic journey. As you paddle alongside Pennock, keep an eye out for bald eagles, seals and otters that frequent the area.
When you reach the southern tip of Pennock, continue across the southern channel of the Tongass to Gravina Island. As you paddle alongside the coast of Gravina, the Blank Islands will appear to the southwest. These two small islands at the mouth of the Blank Inlet make a great place to set up camp for the night — just make sure you set up your tent above the high tide line. Although rare, bears have been known to swim, so secure your food in a bear canister or tree. Set up your tent, cook some dinner and enjoy the incredible sunset from the beach. Keep your ears open and you may be alerted to a Humpback or pod of Orcas swimming by. You’ll fall asleep to the sound of gentle waves lapping the shore.
There is no limit to the paddling you can do with the Blank Islands as your base camp. If you want to keep the trip short, consider a morning trip into the Blank Inlet before paddling back to Ketchikan in the afternoon. The Inlet is teeming with marine life including whales, seals, and otters. Those cute little birds you see are Marbled Murrelets, an endangered bird that nests in the old growth forest along the coast.
You won’t want to go home and you don’t have to! There is plenty to explore by boat from the Blanks. Consider adding a few days to your trip and paddling along the coast of Gravina — you’re bound to see some incredible scenery and there won’t be another human for miles.
Just a few notes: Don’t count on finding dry wood for a fire. It rains so often in Ketchikan, it’s unlikely to find anything that will burn easily so bring a camp stove. Likewise for water — it’s all salty! Bring plenty of drinking water on your journey.
- Map and Compass
- Satellite Phone or Radio
- Kayak and Paddles
- Life Jacket
- Potable Water
- Warm Clothes
- Sleeping Bag
- Camp Stove
- Rope for hanging food or Bear Canister
- Ten Essentials