Ford's Terror Lottery

By Jeremy Saenz, Expedition Leader aboard Safari Quest

Every week, we play the “Ford’s Terror Lotto”; this week we won it!

Ford’s Terror is a fjord in Tracy Arm/Ford’s Terror Wilderness Area and it is hard to get to due to its finicky association with the tides and currents of the area and timing. The entrance to this fjord is very narrow and shallow and the fjord behind the entrance is large and deep. When the tide changes, a tremendous amount of water on either side of the narrows wants to either get in our out (ebb tide or flood tide). This creates a fast-flowing river that runs opposite directions with each tide change as the water squeezes through this narrow entrance. Additionally, the shallow uneven bottom of the entrance intensifies the flow of the river creating a wave chain of rapids that are impassible in our small boats. However, about 45 minutes before and after the tide changes, there is a brief pause as the water changes direction, and we are able to access this beautiful place for a brief 1.5 hours.  Oh, one more thing. The timing of each day’s tide changes in relation to the orbit of the moon. This means that the timing of our 2 high tides and 2 low tides each day changes by about 50 minuets (later) each day. Basically, the timing has to be just right for us to enter Ford’s Terror and we have limited control of this timing, thus, the Ford’s Terror Lottery.  

My eyes grew wide as I looked at the tide chart for the area this week as it looked like everything would line up just perfectly for a visited to this infrequently visited Shangri-la of Southeast Alaska. As we approached the entrance in our small boats, the waves and current were daunting but we had time on our side. Soon, the water at the entrance was calm and placid and we made our entry into the fjord. The narrow walls rose above us as we made our way past the crux of the journey and waterfalls large and small made their way down the 1,000 ft. cliffs around us. 

We hurriedly made our way to each waterfall, viewpoint and possible wildlife spot like kids at a candy store with limited time and money at our disposal. Like always, it was marvelous and knowing that time spent here is limited in any given season, we drank it all in with awe and gusto.

As we made our way back out, we noted the change in water direction and strength of the current with relief and elation. We had won the lottery and now had memories to live off for many weeks or until…the next time we win the “Ford’s Terror Lottery”.