Ice Fields and Ice Caps

Harding Ice Field (Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska)
The Harding Ice Field feeds a number of smaller outlet glaciers that drain into the fjords and lowland valleys of Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska).

NPS Photo

Ice fields and ice caps are smaller than ice sheets (less than 50,000 sq. km or 19,305 sq. mi in area). They are also large bodies of ice that collect in high elevation catchment areas and are drained by smaller outlet glaciers.

Is it an ice field or an ice cap? The answer depends on how much the ice flow is dictated by the surrounding topography:

  • Ice fields have mountains and ridges that jut out above the ice and influence its flow.
  • Ice caps submerge the land beneath them, forming a high dome of slow-moving ice that spreads out from its center.

Find Your Park: Which Parks Have Ice Caps and Ice Fields?

  • Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska  [Geodiversity Atlas]  [Park Home]
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska  [Geodiversity Atlas]  [Park Home]
  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska [Park Home]

To learn more about glaciers, glacier features, and glacial landforms, see the Glaciers & Glacial Landforms Page.

Part of a series of articles titled Types of Glaciers.

Last updated: April 22, 2020