Valley and Piedmont Glaciers

The Fraser Glacier (Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska) is a valley glacier confined by mountains
The Fraser Glacier (Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska) is a valley glacier, confined by mountains on either side.

NPS Photo/Jacob W. Frank

Valley and piedmont glaciers originate in the high alpine and terminate on land.

They often flow through deep bedrock valleys that confine the ice on either side. Over time, they carve and shape these valleys (see U-Shaped Glacial Valleys).

The Malaspina Glacier (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska) is a piedmont glacier
The Malaspina Glacier (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska) is the largest piedmont glacier in North America. It has been designated as a National Natural Landmark.

NPS Photo

If a valley glacier spills out of the mountains, onto the flat foreland, the ice often spreads to form a lobe. Then it is called a piedmont glacier.

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]

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

Last updated: February 9, 2018