• Winter light on the Fairweather Range

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Frequently Asked Questions

Glacier Bay Fact Sheet

Glacier Bay National Park Fact Sheet
How big? how deep? how high? when established? how many species? etc...

 

I will be visiting Glacier Bay this summer, how do I get information to plan my vacation?
You've come to the right place! How would you like to experience Glacier Bay? Start by deciding what to do once you get here and things to know before you come. Or if you prefer to talk to park staff, contact us. We would be happy to help you plan your visit!

I will be arriving on a cruise ship. How can I make the most of my day in Glacier Bay?
Congratulations!, we hope your day spent in Glacier Bay will become one of the highlights of your Inside Passage cruise. In order to be prepared for your amazing day in the bay, check out our park ranger "insider's guide" for cruise passengers.

How can I get a private boating permit to enter Glacier Bay?
Boating permits are required to enter Glacier Bay during June, July and August. You can make a reservation for a boating permit up to 60 days before your trip. Permits are good for up to seven days. You can only hold one boating permit during the months noted above. Please fill out the boating permit application then mail, fax or hand deliver it to the Visitor Information Station. Please provide alternate dates in case the dates you request are full.

I want to camp in Glacier Bay's wilderness, are there established campsites?
In Glacier Bay's wilderness we want you to find your own way. You will have the opportunity to set-up a tent walk the shoreline without a sign of human intrusions. Be aware that there are a few areas closed to humans to protect critical wildlife habitat. Please respect all wildlife and establish a campsite in a way that minimizes the risk of attracting wildlife. Practice Leave-No-Trace camping ethics.

How far are the glaciers from Bartlett Cove and which glaciers are the best to see?
There are 11 glaciers that reach the sea in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, 8 of which are within the bay (some reach the sea only at high tide). See a map of tidewater glaciers. McBride Glacier, the only tidewater glacier in the East Arm, is approximately 40 nautical miles from Bartlett Cove. In the West Arm, Margerie Glacier is approximately 55 nautical miles from Bartlett Cove while Johns Hopkins Glacier is about 63 nautical miles away. If you are on short visit your best bet is to head to the West Arm for glacier viewing. John Hopkins Glacier is perhaps the most scenic of the park's tidewater glaciers. If you are kayaking, McBride Glacier is a good destination because it attracts fewer motorized vessels and is a very active glacier. However never paddle (or take a boat) into McBride Inlet due to its hazardous entrance.

How old are the glaciers in the park?
Glacier Bay has experienced at least 4 glacial periods. The last, the Little Ice age, began about 4,000 years ago. The glaciers that still exist in the park today are remnants of that glacial period.

How old is the ice at the face of the glaciers?
Glaciers flow forward about 3 - 6 feet each day. Depending on the length of the glacier and the steepness of the valley it flows through, the ice at the front of the glacier is anywhere between 200 and 75 years old. So snow that fell in the high mountains 200 years ago, when the U. S. Declaration of Independence was signed, calves (breaks off) off as ice today.

 

Why are the glaciers advancing and retreating?
There is no simple answer. If a glacier has a steady source of snow turning to ice in the mountains, a good lens of water on which to slide along the bedrock, enough gravity and momentum in downhill movement, a good moraine of rock and rubble at the front to insulate it from water erosion and cold enough temperatures year-around, a glacier will advance. If it loses enough of these, it will retreat.

Is Climate Change affecting Glacier Bay's glaciers?
Scientists who observe Earth's climate have documented warming temperatures in Alaska. Of the more than 100,000 glaciers in the state, 95% are currently thinning, stagnating, or retreating, and Glacier Bay's glaciers follow this trend. However, due to heavy snowfall in the soaring Fairweather Mountains, Glacier Bay remains home to a few healthy and advancing glaciers, a rarity in today's world. Check out Glacier Bay's Climate Change page for more information!

What is the chance of seeing an ice fall or calving?
Chunks of ice break from the glacier year around. Calving happens regardless of sun or rain, hot or cold, sometimes not at all in your one hour visit, sometimes multiple times in that hour, no one can predict this very dramatic event. Watch a video of Margerie Glacier calving

 

Where can I see whales?
Humpback whales are most commonly seen in the lower region of Glacier Bay; Sitakaday Narrows, Whidbey Passage and the waters around South Marble Island. For kayakers Hugh Miller Inlet and the Beardslee Islands are good locations. Please remember all boats (including kayaks) are required to operate outside a 1/4 nautical mile of any humpback whale.

Where can I see bears?
Bears are found throughout Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Black bears are commonly seen in the forest regions of the park; around Bartlett Cove, the Bartlett River, Beardslee Islands and North and South Sandy Cove. Brown bears are commonly seen north of Tidal Inlet in the west arm of Glacier and north of Adams Inlet in the east arm. Be bear aware!

Did You Know?