Glacier Bay is one of the few places in the world where you can get "up close and personal" with a tidewater glacier. You can actually get within 1,000 feet of these glaciers. The highest concentration of tidewater glaciers on the planet can be found at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Along the 60 mile stretch of narrow fjords at the Northern end of the Inland Passage, there are six tidewater glaciers.
You will witness first hand Mother Nature at work as huge chunks of ice break off the glaciers and crash with tremendous force into the water. This dazzling display is known as "calving".
Spread across an impressive 3.2 million acres in Southeastern Alaska, this treasure trove of scenic coastal islands, narrow fjords and substantial wildlife offers an inspirational glimpse of what Mother Nature does best.
The park is characterized by snow-capped mountain ranges rising over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, 12 tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, fresh water lakes, and an array of plant species.
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Glacier Bay Attractions
At the head of Glacier Bay is the Tarr Inlet, where scientists have found exposed rock that's believed to be more than 200 million years old. The Tarr Inlet is home to the Grand Pacific Glacier, an active body of ice that's slowly making its way toward the Margerie Glacier, which it last touched in 1912.
Johns Hopkins Inlet
As you cruise by the northeastern edge of the robust Fairweather Range, you'll enter the Johns Hopkins Inlet, home to no less than nine glaciers. Framed by rocky slopes that stretch skyward more than 6,000 feet, these wondrous bodies are eclipsed only by the mighty Mt. Fairweather itself, which at more than 15,300 feet is the highest point in Southeast Alaska.
Brilliant Blue Glow
In the northeastern corner of Glacier Bay, the snow-covered Takhinsha Mountains feed the active Muir Glacier, which regularly sheds walls of ice into the bay. The brilliant blue glow of a calving glacier and the thunderous roar of ice crashing into the water below are sights and sounds that you'll remember for the rest of your life.
The six glaciers that you will most likely cruise past are equally impressive, but for varying reasons. The first brief stop is at Reid Glacier before continuing onto Lamplugh Glacier, which is one of the bluest glaciers in the park, located at the mouth of the Johns Hopkins Inlet.
Next is the gigantic Johns Hopkins Glacier seen at the end of the inlet where you are likely to see continuous calving of showering ice. Oftentimes, the inlet is so full of icebergs that ships must avoid the area. Farther North, at the end of the western arm is another quite active glacier, Marjorie Glacier. Located adjacent to Marjorie Glacier is the largest glacier in the park, the Grand Pacific Glacier. You will linger for over an hour at the Grand Pacific and Marjorie Glaciers for the grandest spectacle of them all. Marjorie is an Ice Age giant a mile wide and over 25 stories high. Here you will marvel at nature's unrelenting power as you witness the birth of one massive iceberg after another.
U.S. Park Ranger and Huna Totem Native Speakers
U.S. Park Rangers will come aboard to share insights into the park history, to point out wildlife, and to answer questions throughout your unforgettable day of scenic cruising. A Huna Totem native speaker will join the ship to impart the legend and lore of this sacred place.
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Glacier Bay Wildlife Viewing
With such a diverse landscape, the park provides a variety of habitats for animals, big and small. Large colonies of seabirds, migrating ducks and geese, black bears, seals, sea lions, porpoises and whales are all common here.
Travelers entering Glacier Bay are sure to see some form of marine life. Glacier Bay is the habitat for a variety of marine life, including whales. The most impressive of the whales is most certainly the humpback as it heaves its massive body out of the water in spectacular leaps, called "breaching". Humpbacks can grow up to 50 feet in length and weigh up to 37 tons in adulthood.
Smaller marine life, but no less interesting, are the harbor seals and porpoises, killer whales, and sea otters. Other wildlife you may see may include brown and black bears, mountain goats, moose, wolves, and over 200 species of birds.
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Glacier Bay History
"MORNING OF CREATION"
When John Muir discovered Glacier Bay in 1879, he surveyed the unblemished panorama and declared it "still in the morning of creation." Muir wasn't the first explorer to be in the area. Nearly a century earlier, George Vancouver's ships sailed right past it because a wall of ice sealed off the entrance to the bay. Prior to visits by the explorers, the land had been occupied by the Tlingit for 10,000 years.
Over the last 200 years, the ice has been steadily receding, revealing a stark landscape that's slowly being taken over by vegetation that can't resist the fresh rock and soil. The result is a lush, temperate rainforest of spruces and hemlocks that carpets large portions of the stunning terrain. The most rapid glacial retreat ever recorded had occurred by 1916, when it was found that the ice had retreated 65 miles.
Glacier Bay was declared a national monument in 1925 to preserve its clues to the world's geological history. In 1980, it became a national park. Several of the glaciers in the area are again advancing, albeit at a very slow pace.
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