Located within the Alexander Archipelago, Gastineau Channel separates Douglas from Juneau (though now, technically, the two have merged, and Douglas is no longer an island). The very first European to spot Gastineau was Joseph Whidbey in 1797. The channel is named for a British civil engineer, John Gastineau, and remains one of the most popular natural day trips from Juneau.

It’s also used by large ships via Douglas Bridge, less than ten miles away. The international airport is also nearby, and spying the channel as you arrive in Juneau is a real treat. Otherwise, only small aircraft can navigate the area, and only during high tide. Fortunately, a number of tour companies specialize in getting guests to the best photography angles of Gastineau.

Visit While You Can

Over the years, shallower waters have made the channel more difficult to navigate. Isostatic rebound is a major cause, encouraging glacial ice sheets to retreat. There’s also the issue of infilling and sedimentation from the Mendenhall Glacier and River. It’s likely that Gastineau Channel will completely dry up and/or become unnavigable in coming years.

In Juneau, the rebound rate ranges from 0.25 – 0.5 inches per year. You’ll want to charter a service to experience this fading channel while you can. Ask your front desk staff for recommendations or help with scheduling a tour.