Paddling From Sitka To Goddard Hot Springs
Goddard hot springs are located on the outer coast of Baranof Island on Hot Springs Bay off of Sitka Sound about 16 miles south of Sitka.
It is said that these were some of the earliest Alaskan mineral springs known to the Europeans. Urey Lisianski, a Russian doctor, built a hospital at the springs in 1805. The Sitka Hot Springs became a very well known area and was visited by many people of both high and low standing within the social aspect. Between the years 1841 and 1842 Sir George Simpson, a renowned world traveler, went to the springs. He was in fact the first Englishman to have ever soaked in the hot springs curative waters. In 1852 though, Wrangel Indians burned down the resort that was built by russians.The residents were stripped naked and had to return to sitka barefoot.
Amos T. Whitford bought the Hot Springs and in 1884 he decided to start a dairy farm. He had cows, chickens, horses, and several other animals as well. Unfortunately, the dairy farm did not last long and the effects cost him dearly. In 1904 Mr. Whitford sold the hot springs to Dr. Fred L. Goddard.
Dr. Goddard was interested in the Hot Springs because of its medicinal uses. After less than a year of owning the property he decided to build a health resort. Many people came to the Sitka Hot Springs to soak in the curative water. Dr. Goddard’s Resort became quite famous.
In 1915, much to Dr. Goddard’s dismay, the resort burned to the ground. Thankfully, Dr. Goddard took this as an opportunity to rebuild his resort and make it even better than before. The new hotel was three stories high. It had twenty-three rooms, each with hot mineral water baths. The hotel was much more luxurious then it had been before the fire, and therefore attracted much more attention, which meant more business for Dr. Goddard.
Then, in 1932, there was a tragic accident. Dr. Fred Goddard had a heart attack. He did not survive. Mrs. Goddard, who had been left a widow, could not run the resort by herself and so in 1939 she sold the property to what was then the Alaskan Territory.
The Pioneer’s home used the hot springs until 1946 as a temporary facility while the new building in Sitka was being built. For nearly thirty years the Sitka Hot Springs was left unused. In 1978, the City of Sitka decided that because of this area’s history, it was important that they made it a national landmark. Because of this decision two cabins with tubs and plumbing were built. These cabins are the buildings that stand at the Sitka Hot Springs, which is now referred to by many as the Goddard Hot Springs.
The Launch: There are numerous launches in Sitka, but I used the parking lot of University of Alaska Southeast in Sitka. You can park your car there no problem.
Paddling time and distance: 2-3 day trip. Approx. 30 miles
Route: From Sitka head southwest across Sitka Sound for Cape Buronof. There are numerous small islands in Sitka Sound. Once at the cape duck into Pirate’s Cove or Three Entrance Bay for some really nice sandy beaches. The cape itself is rocky and a bit rough at times. Get around the cape and stay inside a collection of offshore rocks. There will be kelp beds and breakers near the rocks. Head south down the coast of Baronof Island, heading for Redoubt Bay. Once in Redoubt head southeast for the head of the bay. There is a large stream/river which drains Redoubt Lake. Portage your kayaks over the hump of land to the lake. The pathway is on the north side of the outlet stream. The portage is about 100 yds, and isn’t difficult with a partner. There is a good boardwalk trail over to the lake. Paddle southwest down the lake towards the Goddard trail. Leave your kayak at the old cabin ruins. This trail is unmaintained and can be found behind the ruined cabin in the brush. It goes about three miles over muskeg and forest. The trail was formerly boardwalk, which still exists in fragments. But expect lots of mud and lots of missing boards! The hot springs are two bath houses. It is free and gets heavy use from Sitka residents. Most people arrive by power boat. Each party takes turns using the tubs. Very hot water! Great views of Mt Edgecumbe, etc. We took the Redoubt portage route as an alternative to the rougher coastal route to Goddard. The coastal route is better in the sense of no portaging, whereas in rough weather the portage route is safer and easier. At the time the outer coast was pretty rough.
Paddling Tips: From Cape Buronof to Redoubt Bay is the roughest part. There is some exposure to ocean swells and breakers. Beware of rocks! Sitka Sound can be calm or rough depending on the weather.
Watch out for: Sitka Sound (near town) has cruise ships, fishing boats and other marine traffic. Usually not an issue. Grizzlies are present throughout Southeast Alaska. Use bear cans or hang your food. Have some bear spray or even a gun. Make noise before beaching and before entering the forest. Bear sitings are very common and bears can swim. Excercise caution. Hypothermia may be an issue if it is cold or raining. Summer temps range from 40-60. Often rainy.
Natural Features: We saw two grizzly bears on the beach and three porpoises off Cape Buronof. In the past I have seen both gray and humpback whales in these waters. Also harbor seals and sea lions are routine sightings. Deer are also commonly sighted on beaches. Bald eagles everywhere.
Other Landmarks: Mt Edgecumbe dominates the landscape around Sitka. It is a conical volcano which is visible much of the trip.
Stretch Your Legs: Pirate’s Cove and Three Entrance Bay are extraordinarily beautiful locations.