Kenai Fjords National Park

Description

Southeastern Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park is a sculptured wonderland of ice, slate, and shale that is constantly being reshaped by the hands of mother nature herself. Most of Kenai FjordsPark's surface area is buried beneath the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield, one of four major ice caps in the U.S., and in existence since the Pleistocene period. The ice field is almost completely flat and smooth except for sporadic nunataks (an Eskimo word meaning "lonely peak"), that reach hundreds of feet above its surface. The advance and retreat of the ice mass constantly reshapes the land, but the ice isn't the only mover and shaker. The Kenai peninsula rests above active tectonic plates that cause shoreline to literally drop into the sea when they shift. Over time, glacial activity has carved out finger-like bays and fjords along the peninsula, giving it an uneven, serpentine appearance. A narrow oasis between Kenai Fjords' ice field and shoreline supports a variety of mammals, including bears, mountain goats, moose, marmots, and wolverines. Hemlock and spruce trees provide shelter for a bald eagle population, while steep, seaside fjords are the perfect habitat for sea lions, otter, and harbor seals. In the bay's cold waters you'll find porpoises and several whale species. Puffins, gulls and other sea birds scour the shoreline for meals of small fish and oysters. Exit Glacier, one of 30 glaciers fed by the ice field, is the most hospitable area for exploring and the only area accessible by road. This glacier continues to retreat inland, and areas of coastline that have been exposed for a longer period of time support a mature Sitka spruce and hemlock forest. Newly unburied areas reveal the smooth surfaces of bedrock and the delicate beginnings of revegetation. It's about a 13-mile drive north from Seward, Alaska. Several hiking trails lead to various views of the glacier. The paved and handicapped-accessible first quarter-mile of the Main Trail ends at an information kiosk. From there, you can continue on to glacier or to a panoramic viewing area. Towards the glacier, the Main Trail branches off into two loops: the 3/4-mile Overlook Loop Trail has a spur that leads to the side of the glacier, while the half-mile Outwash Plain Trail takes you up to the glacier's receding "snout." The 3/4-mile Nature Trail starts at the ranger station and leads past cottonwood, alder, and willow groves and over kettle moraines. Posted signs detail the plant progression that is taking place as the glacier recedes. For a more strenuous hike, try the four-mile (one-way) Harding Icefield Trail that climbs more than 3,000 feet. At the summit, you'll get a spectacular panoramic view of the ice field and its jutting mountain peaks. Charter planes offer aerial tours of the Kenai Fjords' ice field, and can be scheduled for day and overnight trips. You can cross-country ski out over the ice or plan a peak-climbing excursion. In either case, be sure to take precautions and plan your trip thoroughly. You can also take guided boat tours in and around bays and inlets, or kayak and backpack. Kayakers are rewarded with up close views of ice floes and remote beaches where primitive campsites are available. Kenai Fjords National Park does not offer lodging or food concessions, but 12 summer camp sites are provided at Exit Glacier. Three public-use, backcountry cabins are located at Holgate Arm, Aialik Bay, and North Arm for summer use. Willow Public Use Cabin, a cabin for winter use is found near Exit Glacier. Cabin reservations are required. The wilderness in Kenai Fjords is pristine and unspoiled, and suitable only for the most experienced outdoors enthusiasts. Proper equipment should be used, and you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and extreme temperatures. Leashed pets are only allowed on Exit Glacier Road and in the parking lot. Pets are not permitted on any of Kenai Fjords National Park's trails or backcountry.

Address

1212 4th Avenue
Seward, AK 99664

Lat/Long

60.12070200, -149.43548800
Visit Website
(907) 224-3175

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