Residents of the tiny hamlet of Tenakee Springs (pop. 100 in summer, half that in winter) include retirees, back-to-the-earthers living off the grid, and a handful of fishers. Many Juneau folks have second homes here. Tenakee’s houses stand on stilts along the shoreline; some have “long-drop” outhouses over the water (or beach, if the tide is out). Locals joke that at least the bathrooms get “flushed” twice a day by the tides.
Tenakee has only one street, a dirt path barely wide enough for Tenakee’s three vehicles (its oil truck, fire truck, and dump truck). Everyone else walks or uses four-wheelers and bicycles.
The town has struggled in recent years. When the K-12 school enrollment dropped to just seven students in 2009, locals went on Craigslist to recruit new families to move to Tenakee. They succeeded—at least temporarily—in keeping the school above the state’s 10-student minimum. Find details at the Tenakee Springs Business Association’s website, www.tenakeespringsak.com.
Tenakee is best known for its hot (107°F) mineral springs, housed in a building right beside the dock. The springs feed a small concrete pool with an adjacent changing room. There are separate hours for men (2–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–9 a.m.) and women (6–10 p.m. and 9 a.m.–2 p.m.), but after midnight the rules tend to relax a bit. If the ferry is in town for more than a half-hour, be sure to take a quick dip in the pool.
Getting to Tenakee Springs
Tenakee is a popular weekend vacation spot for both Juneauites and travelers. The ferry LeConte arrives in Tenakee twice a week with a schedule that makes it possible to stop over the weekend before returning to Juneau. There is no ferry terminal, and cars cannot be off-loaded. The ferry usually stays in town for just 30 minutes, barely long enough to get off the boat for a walk around. Get details from Alaska Marine Highway (800/642-0066, www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs).
Alaska Seaplane Service (907/789-3331 or 800/478-3360, www.flyalaskaseaplanes.com) has flights most days between Tenakee Springs and Juneau, or get a charter from Ward Air (907/789-9150, www.wardair.com).
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition