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ALASKA'S GLACIERS PHOTOS & INFO
Glacier Bay Hubbard Glacier Tracy Arm and the Twin Sawyer Glaciers Glacier Flightseeing, Mt. McKinley Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau The Kennicott Glacier Worthington Glacier, near Valdez
A highlight of any Alaska journey is being able to see glaciers in action. The ice age is still underway here with an estimated 100,000 glaciers in the state, covering three percent of the landscape and creating most of its rivers. Glaciers are rivers of ice that flow from ice packs high in the mountains, where more snow falls than melts. In constant motion, they can move ahead at speeds of several feet a day, or sudden surges of as much as 300 feet. Some are retreating, or shrinking due to increased melting or a lack of new snow to feed them. The beautiful blue colour associated with glaciers is created by the density of the ice which absorbs all the colours of the spectrum except blue, which is reflected.
Tidewater glaciers flow to the sea and are found at the head of fjords or inlets which they carved while retreating. These are the glaciers you can see while on an Alaska cruise when your ship takes you up close to these wonders of nature.
Calving occurs when pieces of a tidewater glacier break off and fall into the sea. The creaking sounds associated with calving glaciers and the roar as pieces fall into the sea are as impressive as the visual scene itself.PHOTO: Norwegian Sun at Hubbard Glacier, courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line
GLACIER BAYGlacier Bay is a collection of fjords and inlets, home to 16 active tidewater glaciers, all five species of Pacific Salmon and 25 percent of the total number of bird species in all North America. It is located in the middle of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, a 3.2 million acre sanctuary. Rangers come on board during the hours you spend in the Bay to explain the various glaciers you will see and the natural history of the region. In just over 200 years, the ice of Glacier Bay has retreated 65 miles. When Captain George Vancouver visited in 1794, the entrance to the Bay was a wall of ice.
Entrance to Glacier Bay is closely guarded in order to protect the delicate environment, so cruise lines must apply for permits to visit. A limited number of permits are issued each year for ships which meet the strict criteria.
Margerie Glacier from Regal Princess
on a wet September day.
Enjoying the Jacuzzi in Glacier Bay
HUBBARD GLACIER &
TRACY ARM AND THE TWIN SAWYER GLACIERS
These glaciers have their own pages:
Tracy Arm and the Twin Sawyer Glaciers
JUNEAUOne of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska and one of the most spectacular, you can drive out to the glacier lookout for an excellent view. Enjoy the many hiking trails - guided hikes are offered by park rangers. Shuttle busses normally operate from the pier on cruise ship days or include Mendenhall on one of your shore excursions. Tours of Mendenhall include flightseeing or landing on the ice to hike or ride a dog sled. You can also take a float or kayak on Mendenhall Lake.
Mendenhall Lake and Glacier
Alaska makes a great family vacation.
Skipping stones at Mendenhall Lake with the Glacier in the background.
Closer shot of Mendenhall Glacier
OVER MT. McKINLEY (DENALI)At Denali Park, you'll have the opportunity to take a flightseeing helicopter over Mt. McKinley, known locally as Denali, the highest peak in North America at 20,230 ft. or 6,194 meters. It is a spectacular ride and surpasses most people's expectations.
Helicopter on the tundra with view of Mt. McKinley
THE KENNICOTT GLACIER
At the ghost town of Kennicott in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, you'll see the remains of a once thriving copper mining centre. Early last century, Kennicott was known as "Glacier City" as it was built alongside the glacier. The ice was so high, locals could not see across the valley. Since then the ice has retreated leaving mounds of glacial silt.
The glacial remains from the Kennicott Glacier Lodge, a haven for hikers from around the world
who come to enjoy the spectacular opportunities in Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest National Park in North America.
Panorama of the glacial remains from the old mill.
On the scenic Richardson Highway, 28 miles from Valdez, you'll find Worthington Glacier, well worth the drive. Princess makes a stop here when you travel from Copper River Wilderness Lodge to Valdez to cross Prince William Sound. A park area with interpretive center and walkways has been established at the foot of this very accessible glacier.
Photos ©Susan Milne. Lead photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line.