In 1794 explorer Captain George Vancouver sailed into Icy Strait. He found it choked with ice, and what was to become Glacier Bay was barely noticeable.
That ice was more than 4,000 ft. thick, up to 20 miles wide in places and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias Mountain Range. In 1879 John Muir found that the ice had retreated 48 miles up the bay and by 1916 the Grand Pacific Glacier had retreated 65 miles from Glacier Bay’s mouth. This rapid retreat is only found here in Southeast Alaska. Scientists have been studying the phenomena hoping to learn how glacial activity affects climate change.
Just 50 miles northwest of Juneau (25 minutes by air), Glacier Bay is the largest national park in Southeast Alaska, the world’s largest protected marine sanctuary, and a World Heritage Site. At 3.3 million acres, it’s larger than the state of Connecticut.
The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve includes tidewater glaciers, snow-capped mountain ranges, ocean coastlines, deep fjords, and freshwater rivers and lakes.
As you enter Glacier Bay, remember you are cruising along shorelines that were completely covered by ice just 200 years ago. The glaciers seen here today are remnants of a general ice advance ‘the Little Ice Age’ that began about 4,000 years ago and reached its maximum extent here around 1750.
Alaska Airlines and air taxis make daily flights from Juneau to Gustavus.