Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska

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    Visiting Glacier Bay National Park on a Cruise Ship

    The magnificent scenery of Glacier Bay Alaska is mesmerizing
    ••• The magnificent scenery of Glacier Bay Alaska is mesmerizing. Linda Garrison

    Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is spread over 3.3 million acres of Southeast Alaska, about 93 miles northwest of Juneau. Glacier Bay is only accessible by plane, boat, or ship, and a day in the park is often included on cruises of the Inside Passage of Alaska.

    Cruise ships enter Glacier Bay at the Visitor's Center at Bartlett Cove and pick up park rangers and a Native American interpretive guide for the day. Although 200 years ago the entire tidewater area was covered with glaciers, today it is another 55 mile ride to the tidewater glaciers from Bartlett Cove.

    Cruise ships like the Holland America Eurodam pick up the guides early in the morning, and spend most of the morning spotting wildlife and enjoying the magnificent glaciers and mountain scenery. Ships arrive at Margerie Glacier about noon and guests can marvel at this river of ice, cheering when it calves and oohing when the sun brings out the brilliant blue color. By the time ships drop off the rangers back at Bartlett...MORE Cove, it is late afternoon. 

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  • 02 of 10

    Glacier Bay National Park Alaska - Steller Sea Lions

    Steller sea lions basking in the sun of Glacier Bay, Alaska
    ••• Steller sea lions basking in the sun of Glacier Bay, Alaska. Linda Garrison

    Steller sea lions can often be seen lounging on rocky islands like Marble Island in Glacier Bay National Park.

    Steller sea lions are easy to differentiate from harbor seals. First, they are larger. Second, Steller sea lions have articulated flippers that bend, enabling the sea lions to climb. Seals don't have this type of flippers. So, if you see a furry animal lounging on a buoy or a high rocky island like Marble Island, it is a Steller sea lion. The third way to tell a sea lion from a seal is that sea lions have exposed ear folds, and seals do not.

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  • 03 of 10

    Alaska Brown Bear in Glacier Bay National Park

    Alaska Brown Bear in Glacier Bay National Park
    ••• Glacier Bay Wildlife in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska Alaska Brown Bear in Glacier Bay National Park. Linda Garrison

    The large hump on the back of an Alaskan brown bears makes them easy to distinguish from other bears such as the black bear.

    Alaska brown bears (also known as coastal brown bears) are the same species as the grizzly bear, which is found inland in Alaska and in the Lower 48 states and Canada. The Alaska brown bears are larger, due to their rich seafood diet. The Alaska brown bears are also much larger than their smaller cousins, the black bear.

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  • 04 of 10

    Alaskan Brown Bear with Cubs in Glacier Bay National Park

    Alaskan Brown Bear with Cubs in Glacier Bay National Park
    ••• Glacier Bay Wildlife in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska Alaskan Brown Bear with Cubs in Glacier Bay National Park. Linda Garrison

    What an exciting wildlife event - a momma Alaskan brown bear and her two cubs!

    This momma bear and her two cubs were digging for shellfish on this rocky beach at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Fairweather Mountains in Glacier Bay National Park

    Fairweather Mountain Range in Glacier Bay
    ••• Fairweather Mountain Range in Glacier Bay. Linda Garrison

     In addition to wildlife, visitors to Glacier Bay National Park have the opportunity to see majestic mountain ranges like the Fairweather Mountains.

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  • 06 of 10

    Lamplugh Tidewater Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

    Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska
    ••• Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Linda Garrison

    Tidewater glaciers spreading into the sea are different than piedmont glaciers such as Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau. The tidewater glaciers are the ones that often have some of their ice break off and fall into the sea. This phenomenon is called calving.

    Scientists have identified several different types of glaciers. Glaciers that end in the seas, such as many of those in Glacier Bay National Park, are tidewater glaciers. Those that are confined within valley walls are valley glaciers, while those that flow out of a valley and spread out are piedmont glaciers. Glaciers that just seem to drop out of the valley are hanging glaciers. All four types are found in Alaska.

    Lamplugh Glacier is 150-180 feet above the waterline and 10-40 feet below. The Lamplugh is 3/4 mile wide, 16 miles long, and moving 1200 feet per year.

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  • 07 of 10

    Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

    Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
    ••• Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Linda Garrison

    Glaciers are definitely not smooth, as can be seen in this photo of Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Margerie Glacier is often visited by cruise ships because it is one of Glacier Bay's most active glaciers, calving (breaking away) often. Margerie Glacier is about a mile wide and 250 feet high above the water line and another 100 feet of tidewater glacier below the water line. 

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  • 08 of 10

    Grand Pacific Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska

    Grand Pacific Glacier in Glacier Bay
    ••• Grand Pacific Glacier in Glacier Bay. Linda Garrison

    Tarr Inlet of Glacier Bay is the home of the Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers. The Grand Pacific Glacier looks much different than nearby Margerie Glacier. It is covered with dirt and rocks, and is slowly receding and thinning. The Grand Pacific Glacier has accumulated a covering of dirt and rock as it has made its way down the glacial valley.  It is the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska, stretching up over 34 miles into the mountains. Grand Pacific Glacier ranges from 60-180 feet above the water and 0-60 feet below the water line. Grand Pacific is moving 350-1200 feet per year.

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  • 09 of 10

    Sea Gulls Taking a Rest on an Ice Floe in Glacier Bay, Alaska

    These sea gulls found a good place to rest--a small ice berg
    ••• These sea gulls found a good place to rest--a small ice berg. Linda Garrison

    Even common animals like sea gulls are worthy of a photo when they are sitting on a small ice berg!

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  • 10 of 10

    Clouds Roll in Over Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska

    Rapidly changing weather in Glacier Bay
    ••• Rapidly changing weather in Glacier Bay. Linda Garrison

    Glacier Bay National Park receives between 70-75 inches of rain each year. The weather is often gloomy and rainy, and often cold. The rangers described it as "moody".

    The wet weather at Glacier Bay contributes to the lush vegetation seen around Bartlett Cove. It gets very cool near the icy glaciers, so be sure to take a jacket, hat, and gloves. The wildlife and glacier viewing and photography is always better outdoors.