About two hours southwest of Anchorage is the fifth most visited national park in Alaska. Kenai Fjords National Park maintains and sustains the Harding Ice Field and all of its outflows, one of the largest ice fields in the world. To see one of nature’s greatest wonders, you must travel by car, bus or train to Seward, the departure point of all Kenai tours. When you arrive at the park, you’ll see more than 30 glaciers that you can see by plane, hike or boat. A biplane ride over Kenai is not only an amazing and breathtaking view, it really makes you appreciate the powers of Mother Nature. Glaciers like these are the same objects that formed in Yosemite National Park in California several tens of thousands of years ago as they retreated toward the North Pole.
For those who like to practice, up close and personal, hiking, while not just good exercise, is the only way to physically stand and be in close proximity to these ancient glaciers. The best recommendation for viewing the glaciers in the Kenai Fjords is by boat. Boat tours are offered daily and mostly during the summer months. It is during these boat tours that people who take part will also get to see some of Alaska’s most primitive wildlife.
Whenever possible, tourists can see flocks of beluga whales, killer whales, humpback whales, nesting white-headed eagles and the elusive timber wolf. In this national park, the natural giants are a haven for Alaskan wildlife. Depending on which method of exploration you choose – hiking, flying or boating – anyone can observe the fauna that call the park home and just not get too close.
The same goes for glacier viewing. Being too close from the air is not a problem for a trained flier. For someone who wants to hike, being too close can be dangerous, especially when crossing to the top of an ice field. Being on one of the tour boats is probably the best experience to get up close. Gliding through rich mineral blue water to skyscraper-sized glaciers with towering mountains is a picture worth taking if you still can.
One sight that happens casually in the Kenai Fjords is the calving of the glaciers. These days, walkers look forward to this moment, but don’t understand the warning signs that are present. The calving of a glacier is a rare event when a large chunk of glacier falls into the ocean, turning into an iceberg. The sound of huge chunks of ice hitting the water is a loud rumble that shakes your eardrums.
If you witness in a boat, the waves rock the boat back and forth, so hold on tight. For such a unique experience, though, the reality of the situation is that what people are cheering for is a direct result of global warming.