"Smoke on the Water" Top 5 Page for this destination Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve by mrclay2000

The Inexorable Jealousy of the Clouds

Glacier Bay is one of the finest national parks in the system, but on most days the clouds refuse to reveal the treasures underneath. Above this vast tract of rainforest lies an interminable belly of gray sky. Bad weather often means a hideous squall and high winds on a bay where tides decide everything. Drizzle and darkness are common attributes, while good weather, a rarity in southeastern Alaska, often means that the clouds are only willing to withhold their burdens a while longer before pouring them in your wake. On those rare occasions however when the sun defeats the cloudy minions, the effect is as luxurious and bristling with light and life such as few corners of North America can pretend to contest.

Even so, Glacier Bay is not a simple park to explore. Two-thirds of its entirety is covered by snows and ice that never melt. Marching through its spruce intensity is something not to be considered even by the hardiest hiker. Paddling even to the extremity of the shorter east arm (the Muir Inlet) will involve the strongest mariner in a row of two days, depending on the weather possibly more punishing than rewarding. In sum, the landward obstacles of Glacier Bay are extremely difficult to penetrate, and for kayakers (the one true way to explore the park) one accidental plunge into the aquagreen surf might be the last ablution your wearied frame will ever perform.

These details are more for truth than for warning. Glacier Bay is unlike all other parks in the system. The world's largest moose, the mighty brown bear and his smaller black cousin, and the occasional wolf are all familiar throughout the park, yet the marine life is by far the most common ambassador. Kayakers are customarily escorted by harbor seals and diving porpoises while paddling to the farthest reaches. Sea lions lie aground on rocky surfaces on smaller islands throughout the bay, while the largest visitor the humpback whale commonly plies the waters between Bartlett Cove and Sebree Island. Campers familiar to Rocky Mountain National Park in September are accustomed to the overnight serenade of restless elks, but in Glacier Bay, the blowing of returning whales is the lullaby by which campers ease into their nighttime quarters, an experience unknown to boarders at the lodge or those who briefly visit the Bay on the deck of a cruise ship. I can affirm with absolute confidence that nothing compares with a pod of 40-ton sirens in the lee of a summer's night, or the fractured frown of 250-ft Margerie Glacier reluctantly martyring its facade to an endless flotilla of icebergs in the west arm.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Unimaginable natural beauty, glaciers by the hundred, marine and land life ad infinitum
  • Cons:Cloudy, windy, drizzly, given to wind and tide
  • In a nutshell:If the sun brightens your day, Glacier Bay will glitter like gold!
  • Intro Updated Jul 30, 2003
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Reviews (51)

Comments (28)

  • RickinDutch's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Nice review Mike. Been in Alaska for 30+ years and yet to get to Glacier Bay. Just starting to sea kayak and now it is on my bucket list.

  • K.Knight's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2008 at 1:33 AM

    Mike, What an excellent page! Anne and I will be visiting this part of the world next year. I can not wait to see it! Thanks for sharing.

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo
    Nov 14, 2007 at 5:51 PM

    Excellent work. Thanks.

  • chewy3326's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2006 at 8:04 PM

    What an awe-inspiring place. I really hope I get to visit Glacier Bay someday

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2005 at 8:46 AM

    Great photos from your trip to Glacier Bay National Park--some did look precariously balanced!!

  • desert_princess's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2005 at 6:10 AM

    Fascinating....you got my imagination working and putting life to the pics!!! Great style, soo much info, no excess words .THANX!!! Yummy yummy ,crabssssss...

  • aussiejen's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2005 at 3:27 PM

    WOW. Wonderful photos and tips.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2005 at 2:26 AM

    What a paradise for kayaking and hiking !!! Great pictures - thanks for sharing !

  • zrim's Profile Photo
    Sep 6, 2004 at 4:56 PM

    I come for inspiration before embarking on my Prince William Sound pages.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Aug 13, 2004 at 3:02 PM

    In a word - fabulous.


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