A Vacation Spot in the Final Frontier

Learn more about Alaska’s natural wonders in the article below, readers:

Sockeye salmon spawning in a pond-main.jpg

Seven Natural Phenomena Worth Traveling to Alaska For

From salmon spawning to the dancing lights of the aurora borealis, Alaska has some of the country’s most impressive natural wonders

By Emily Matchar

SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
OCTOBER 13, 2020

Alaska is a place of extremes. Midnight sun. Polar night. Winter temperatures of 50 below. Summers lush with wildflowers and blackberries. The continent’s tallest mountain. More coastline than all other 49 states combined. The state is also home to some of the wildest natural phenomena in the world. From the tidal bore of Turnagain Arm to the gleaming “sundogs” that appear on the coldest days, here’s a guide to the state’s once-in-a-while wonders.

Turnagain Arm Tidal Bore

Here’s something you don’t often find in the lower 48: Surfers on a river. Twice a day, Alaska’s Turnagain Arm waterway experiences a bore tide, when outgoing water slams against the tide coming in from the ocean. It causes an inland wave as high as 12 feet, more than big enough to hang ten.

The Turnagain Arm’s impressive tidal bore has to do with the shape and length of the waterway, says Travis Rector, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Because the arm is so long, it takes hours for the water to drain out at low tide. It’s still draining when the water rushes back in at the next high tide. Bang: tidal bore.

“Another factor is that the opening to the Turnagain Arm is quite wide, and then it narrows to a point,” Rector says. “As it narrows it squeezes the water into a smaller area, causing the bore tide to get quite high.”

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