Friday, August 24, 2012

Elfin Cove Alaska Part 1

The fish tender Pavlov tied to the fuel dock. Notice how high the water line is.

Cohos Bar and Grill. Open from noon until they feel like closing

The inner harbor and tidal grid

This boardwalk parallels the entrance to the inner harbor

Well, as promised, here are some pictures of the quaint little fishing village, Elfin Cove. There isn't a lot of history available that I could find on the internet. At one time there was a plaque at the head of the dock at the outer harbor that gave a little history about Elfin Cove, but I didn't see it when I went there this time. It may still be there, but there was some burning and maintanence work going on in the general area and I didn't want to spend too much time looking around for it. I'll share what I know, or think I know about this little village.  I think it was originally known at the Gunk Hole or some such thing. It was a safe harbor for the few fishermen who ventured out on the outside coast in the 1930's. When Ernie Swanson, one of the original "founders" brought his wife up from the lower 48 she agreed to be the postmaster of the town but only if it was renamed, so it was named after  Ernie's boat, the Elfin. It has long been a popular place for the troll fleet to drop in and get away from the weather or just to take a  break at the end of a long day. At one time there was a small local troll fleet who fished out of "The Cove" as it's known. Many of them would just go out for the day, maybe fish right out in front of Three Hill Island or elsewhere in Cross Sound and be back in the evening in time for supper. Two of the more outstanding boats that I remember as being regulars from the cove were the Sandy Andy and the Avenger. The boys loved the Avenger for some reason- I guess I did too. I loved the name. It seemed appropriate for a fishing boat, to get vengence on the fish and sealions and weather and breakdowns and all the frustrations that go with this business. I spoke to the guy who owned it once, thinking it might have some swashbuckling reason behind the name. I found out that he named it after a favorite television show. Oh well... Nothing about Elfin Cove fits into the normal way of doing business as a town. I really don't know how they get any revenue for the village. I'm not sure if they have a local sales tax or what. To the best of my knowledge there is no law enforcement present. If there is a serious crime the Alaska State Troopers have to be called in. I guess things like drunk and disorderly are just tolerated or handled with a vigilante type of law. It would seem that with a town full of fishermen that it would be a common problem to have loud disagreements between different parties. There used to be a bumper sticker that said Elfin Cove, a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. The bumper stickers were meant to go on cars in some other town since there isn't even a road, much less a car anywhere. Space is very limited and many of the buildings are built on stilts to allow them to occupy space on the mountainside without falling into the water. There is a boardwalk that encompasses the main area  and you can walk around the whole village in a matter of minutes.While Elfin Cove was initially a safe haven for the commercial fleet, sometime in the seventies it was discovered by a few sporty boys who thought it would be a great place to stick a lodge. Well, one lodge became two and then three and now there are like nine of them there. In the morning when I'm fishing the area the charter boats go charging out of the cove like angry bees from the hive. There is an uneasy truce that seems to exist between the year round residents (somewhere between 32 and 54) and the lodges. I believe most of the residents can relate to the fishing fleet, many of whom are as perineal as the grass when they show in the spring to start fishing for king salmon. The lodges cater to the wealthier clients who seem to keep to themselves or hang out mainly at the lodges. When one of them steps out into the village they stand out like a sore thumb. I'm not sure if there is any kind of barge service to Elfin Cove. There might be a small freight boat that services the community with groceries, but otherwise I believe they get most of their supplies by float plane, since there isn't a landing strip for a regular wheel plane, nor is there any space for one. It's a very isolated place and those who choose to call it home seem to enjoy that solitary, independent lifestyle. Coho's Bar and Grill seems to do a booming business with many in the fishing fleet and I would imagine with the locals as well. It's not uncommon for a fisherman to call on the VHF radio and order a pizza to pick up when they come in. It runs in my mind the gal who owns it may have advertized specials like dinner or dessert in the past on the radio as well. There are two entrances. One leads to the outer harbor, where the Pavlov is located. The inner harbor is accessed by traveling through a natural salt water canal not much bigger than a small creek.  You wouldn't think a boat could possibly go through, but as you can see from the pictures, some fair sized boats have traveled through, although possibly only on  a very high tide. I think thats about all I have to share tonight. The next post will have a few more pictures of this unique place and perhaps I'll be able to add a bit more narrative. Until then, so long.

The boardwalk leading to the inner harbor. A gift shop at one of the many lodges there now.


  1. Dang, that floathouse is still at the inner harbor. I remember the Avenger used to tie up across from that floathouse.. Nice pictures dad. Take care.

  2. Those are great pics dad, looks like a neat place, but I don't think I would want to live there! Love ya!

  3. cool blog dad thanks for posting pics of the place and talking about it. love you

  4. Hi Guys- it's a really neat place to visit. It's been several years since I was out there. It takes me about six hours to get to Cross Sound from Hoonah. Of course I have to go through South Pass to get there and that can leave me with heart palpitations, but the last trip through was fine. I'm glad it was sunny that day.

  5. Some number of years ago I received an offer that, had I accepted, would have ensconced me in the 'regulars' corner. I prefer a 'drier' climate when it comes to entertainment, however. It's a beautiful place, nonetheless, and worthy of commentary - especially where floatplane vs boat is concerned.

  6. Hey Rene- On the one hand I can see you being there. The solitude probably wouldn't bother you so much, though I don't know. I know you spent time down Chatham for a bit- Warm Springs Bay? That had to be pretty isolated I would think. Anyway, it is a beautiful place to visit. I usually try to make it in at least once when I'm out that way.