Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Filled with rugged capes, sea arches and ice caves, magnificent Kenai Fjords National Park is the kind of place that stirs the souls of artists, including some filmmakers, whose other worldly sets are no doubt inspired by locations like this. Indeed, if you were in search of Superman's Fortress of Solitude, this would be a good place to start.
Set on the jagged Southern end of the Kenai Peninsula South of Anchorage, the ice-sculpted land known as "Alaska's playground" just begs to be explored - and there's a variety of ways to do it.
||You will eventually want to learn why Seward is regarded as the "Gateway" to Kenai Fjords National Park. Kenai Fjords National Park offers visitors a chance to view hundreds of islands, amazing fjords, brilliant glaciers, and pristine coves. You may want to try a kayaking excursion, during which you may spot a combination of whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins and many other wild animals within Kenai Fjords National Park.
Within the crystal green waters of the Fjords is an abundant array of tidewater and piedmont glaciers. Marine wildlife includes otters, sea lions, harbor seals, humpback and orca whales, porpoises, puffins, and kittiwakes.
Kenai Fjords National Park is most easily accessed by tour boat from Seward or by driving out to Exit Glacier, just outside of Seward. Wildlife and glacier exhibits are available at the Small Boat Harbor Visitor Center and the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward.
Exit Glacier, remnant of a larger glacier once extending to Resurrection Bay, is one of several rivers of ice flowing off the icefield. Active, yet retreating, it provides the perfect setting to explore. Here are found newly exposed, scoured, and polished bedrock, and a regime of plant succession from the earliest pioneer plants to a mature forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock.
Exit Glacier is a half mile wide, dynamic river of ice whose source is the 700 square mile Harding Icefield. This outlet glacier flows out of the higher Harding Icefield and down the U shaped glacial valley, a distance of about 3 miles. As the ice moves forward, it also descends approximately 2500 feet to the Exit Creek outwash plain.
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Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Viewing
A summer burgeoning of life occurs in the fjords. Steller sea lions haul out on rocky islands at the entrances to Aialik and Nuka Bays. Harbor seals ride the icebergs. Dall porpoises, sea otters, and gray, humpback, killer, and minke whales ply the fjord waters. Halibut, lingcod, and black bass lurk deep in these waters, through which salmon return for inland spawning runs. Thousands of seabirds, including horned and tufted puffins, black-legged kittiwakes, common murres, and the ubiquitous gulls, seasonally inhabit steep cliffs and rocky shores.
The Chiswell Islands are located at the mouth of Aialak Bay in the Gulf of Alaska and offer superb marine wildlife viewing opportunities. More than 50,000 seabirds representing 18 different species nest on the rocky islands each summer. From the puffins nesting in crevices of borrows to the murres perching precariously on narrow ledges, you can observe each seabird species making their living in their own unique way. In addition, the only Steller sea lion rookery (pupping area) that can be legally and easily approached is located on these islands. Other marine wildlife species you may want to see on or around the islands include sea otters, harbor seals, Dall and harbor porpoises as well as humpback, orca, and minke whales.
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Kenai Fjords National Park History
Captain Vitus Bering, in 1741, was the first known European to see the Kenai Peninsula. Captain James Cook made the European discovery of Cook Inlet in 1778. After Cook's visit, the area became the scene of bitter competition among rival fur companies for the natural resources of Russian America. Alexander Baranof named Resurrection Bay in 1792, finding it a welcome refuge from Pacific storms. In 1793, Baranof selected a site on the west side of Resurrection Bay for a ship building port. The area was controlled by the Russians until the United States purchase. By that time, trading posts had been established at Nanwalek, Kenai, Tyonek, and Iliamna. The first American settlement in the Seward area was in 1884, by William Lowell. The railroad connecting Seward to the Interior was conceived in 1898 and completed by 1915.
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