Courtesy of the National Park Service Glacier Bay Web Site
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve commands a glacier-crowned, maritime wilderness that stretches northward from Alaska's inside passage to the Alsek River, encircling a magnificent saltwater bay. The 3.3 million acre park derives its name and much of its biological and cultural significance from this great bay, which harbors spectacular tidewater glaciers and a unique assemblage of marine and terrestrial life. To the south and east, the landscape fragments into the timbered islands and winding fjords of the Alexander Archipelago and the Tongass National Forest. To the west, the Park's pristine outer coast opens to the Gulf of Alaska, and beyond to the Pacific Ocean and Asia. To the north, the St. Elias Mountains reach across the new Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park (British Columbia) to connect two more vast protected areas; Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Kluane National Park in Canada. A mountain-guarded, maritime sanctuary, Glacier Bay National Park thus secures the coastal flank of the largest internationally protected area on earth.
Glacier Bay proper opens to the north off Icy Strait and branches for over 60 miles through increasingly deforested mountains to terminate in bare rock and glacial ice. The heart of the present Park, Glacier Bay was hidden under a vast ice sheet when the earliest Europeans paused briefly to chart the adjacent waters in the late 18th century. Eighty five years later, the American naturalist and writer John Muir found the glaciers had receded more than 30 miles, beginning the documentation of one of the most rapid glacial retreats ever recorded. Tlingit oral history along with subsequent investigation have established that this dynamic bay had been ice-free before, and was home to the Huna people who had inhabited it between periodic glacial advances for thousands of years. Since the latest reopening, the glaciers have continued to withdraw, and the land and waters thus unlocked have evolved a diverse array of flora and fauna in an ongoing display of marine and terrestrial succession. These successional processes offered unparalleled opportunity for scientific study, and the resulting attention spurred the move to protect Glacier Bay and its environs as a National Monument in 1925.
|Glacier Bay National Park
The park is open year round. The Glacier Bay National Park Visitor Center is open from mid-May to mid-September.
Air travel: Year-around air service is available to Gustavus from Juneau and neighboring communities via small planes. These air-taxi companies are common in Alaska. A major airline provides daily jet service between Juneau and Gustavus in the summer.
Car: There are no roads to Glacier Bay and no Alaska state ferry service. The only road in the park runs 10 miles between Bartlett Cove and Gustavus. Seven miles of trails wind along the beaches and through the rainforest in the Bartlett Cove area.
Public transportation: Passenger ferries offer transportation between Juneau and Gustavus mid-May through mid-September. Limited tour boat, cruise ship and charter boat services are available. Private pleasure boats are welcome. A ten-mile road by taxi or bus connects Gustavus to Bartlett Cove.
Glacier Bay is a rainy place. Bartlett Cove averages 75 inches of rain per year, most of that in September and October. The rain, wind, topography and tides all play a role in creating our exciting weather. Long periods of rainy, cool, and overcast weather are common in southeast Alaska. Summer daytime temperatures range from 45- 65F. A hat, gloves, raingear and sturdy, waterproof footgear are recommended.
The Glacier Bay Visitor Center located on the second level of the Glacier Bay Lodge and the first portion of the Forest Loop Trail is accessible to wheelchairs. There are no paved roads.
The only road in the park runs 10 miles between Bartlett Cove and Gustavus. Seven miles of trails wind along the beaches and through the rainforest in the Bartlett Cove area. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is most easily seen from a boat; the distance between Bartlett Cove and the tidewater glaciers is 65 miles. Activities include sightseeing, wildlife viewing, boating, kayaking, and the park ranger programs.