"Glacier Bay" Top 5 Page for this destination Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve by mtncorg

Glacier Bay - kayak heaven!

Glacier Bay is a superlative in a State of Superlatives, a Must See in a State of Must Sees. One could spend a lifetime of vacations in different areas of Alaska and not see it all, but one place not to be missed is here in Glacier Bay. This is a destination in its own right. Its wild magnificence cannot be overestimated. Most come on cruise ships or take the tour boat out the Glacier Bay Lodge, but if you have the time and the spirit, this wilderness begs a longer stay. You can be dropped off by the daily tour boat and explore in depth by foot or kayak, the upper bay reaches that are over 50 miles ot from the Lodge, only reachable by boat. A kayak, allows you to make a wilderness tour-de-force - see my notes and those of richiedisc who also pushed out into the wilderness, only in the eastern arms on a tour in the Muir Inlet.

The Park is a vast grand wilderness area made a little less so by the 10-story cruise ships that make day tours to the tidewater glaciers of the western arm of the Bay. You can be camping on the shore and still follow the public-address announcements on the behemoth cruisers a mile offshore. Smile and wave, for you have become part of the itinerary. The ships depart quickly leaving behind only a grayish haze marking their passing.

The Bay, itself, splits into two mighty arms about 30 miles from its mouth at Icy Strait. The eastern arm is the Muir Inlet which is off limits to the cruise ships. For a fine view at this magnificent region, I again refer you to the fine Glacier Bay pages of richiedisc. For my trip, we pushed up the western arm, kayaking mainly between the area of Ried Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier.

Glacial retreat is truly amazing when you realize the glaciers here in the Bay have retreated over 50-60 miles since the Bay was first discovered in 1794 by Captain Vancouver. The glacier at that time was 20 miles wide, more than 100 miles long and over 4000 feet thick. By 1916, the glacier had retreated 65 miles from th Icy Strait to the mouth of the Grand Pacific Glacier. there are 16 glaciers - all feeder of the earlier one great glacier - which are considered tidewater, meaning they actually end in the sea.

Whales are a major attraction in the lower bay - humpbacks and Orcas being the most common. Another natural phenomena you will find going up bay is to witness the plant succession following the glacial retreat. Around the Glacier Bay Lodge and the town of Gustavus near the mouth of the Bay, you find mature, dense hemlock rainforests. Further upbay, spruce and then only alder and finally near the glaciers, rock and rubble. It is truly an amazing ecology book open for display - complete with the odd grizzly bear or two.

A trip to Glacier Bay, whether on a huge cruise ship or to do a kayak tour, is not a cheap undertaking. For the cruise ship, you will be mostly self-contained. For the kayak tour, careful planning is require along with early reservations for your boat for the short summer season (unless you bring along your own folding kayak). Remember once you get there, the kayak tour costs will go down the longer you stay since you will be camping in the wilds.

Gustavus is the entry point for the Park - unless you are on a cruise ship. It is a scattered out settlement of artists and bed/breakfasts near a WWII airfield - which is now used by the connecting flights from Juneau. The b/b’s and the Glacier Bay lodge are far from cheap - this is Alaska. There is a good campground near the Glacier Bay Lodge - see mrclay 2000’s notes - complete with bear caches. We used he dormitory bunks - an annex of the Lodge - a decent deal considering you can use the showers and that this is a rain forest. When we were there, it was raining hard on our entry. No reason to get our equipment wet quite yet. ;-] One quick aside, if it is raining at the Lodge, the weather may still be a little better upbay. The glaciers tend to moderate the rain a bit. Whether you are camping, staying in the Lodge or in the dorm bunks, the Lodge’s bar is a fine spot to congregate at. Must have something to do with that fine Alaska Beer being served (www.Alaskanbeer.com). On our return from upbay, we were treated to cloudless skies. Nothing better that sitting outside on the Lodge’s deck with an Alaskan Amber and 15300 foot Mt Fairweather crowning the distance - unless it is a bottle of Alaskan Amber along the shore of Reid Inlet at about 2200 - sun still up - watching the arctic terns flitting about.

  • Intro Updated Jan 22, 2005
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Reviews (25)

Comments (23)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2008 at 1:17 PM

    What a fantastic place for kayaking and hiking! And seeing first hand how the glaciers have retreated since Captain Cook's visit 200 years ago. It's amazing that there are people in Alaska who don't believe in global warming!

  • Apr 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM

    The picture you posted about kayaking along the John Hopkins Inlet is absolutely breathtaking. Is it as serene as it looks?

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2007 at 3:36 PM

    Great page! We'll likely be heading to Glacier Bay next year.

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2006 at 6:11 AM

    Very nice page on Glacier Bay. I toured the park from the air, aboard a single engine, cessna airplane.

  • Paul2001's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2006 at 2:38 PM

    Wow that iceriding looks like quite a chilly experience! I am wondering why I did not visit this place after all I was so close. A beautiful page.

  • chewy3326's Profile Photo
    Jan 27, 2006 at 12:42 PM

    I hope I can visit Glacier Bay someday; it looks so beautiful! Great photos, too!

  • DPando's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2005 at 3:38 AM

    God bless Alaska..ruling Bush in washington...its a pitty it would have to be destroyed!!! ***

  • easyoar's Profile Photo
    May 26, 2005 at 12:41 PM

    Great page Mark! A place that I would love to visit. The Kayaking must be excellent fun. I've heard of wives driving husbands to drink, but not many driving them to suicide!

  • bkoon's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2005 at 8:34 AM

    Lovely. Your pictures are very nice. Great page. Thanks for sharing. Bee :)

  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2004 at 10:25 AM

    Stunning photos, as always. The kayak trip looks like fun. The question is, can I talk my teenagers into doing it this summer?

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