Glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park

Aerial View of Margerie Glacier
An aerial view of Margerie Glacier. The glacier begins high in the mountains and meanders down the valleys like a river of ice.

NPS Photo

Glaciers are Rivers of Ice
Snow falls in the mountains, compacts into ice, and slides downhill. Each year, snow must fall to replenish the glacier.
Glacier Bay's Glacier Statistics

  • Number of glaciers: 1,045
  • Longest glacier: Grand Pacific Glacier, 40 miles
  • Fastest glacier: Johns Hopkins Glacier can move up to 15 feet per day.
  • Area of Glacier Bay National Park covered by ice: 2,055 square miles, or 27%
A Dramatic Glacial History
A few hundred years ago, an enormous glacier, several miles wide and several thousand feet thick, covered most of Glacier Bay National Park. In the past 250 years, that glacier retreated 65 miles, creating Glacier Bay. Today, Glacier Bay National Park is home to more than 1,000 glaciers, most of them small pieces of the enormous glaicer that once filled the bay.

Calving Glaciers
Ice breaks off from the front of glaciers in a process known as calving. Visitors come from around the world to see calving, what the native Tlingit people call "white thunder."
Ice falling from the face of Margerie Glacier
Ice breaks off, or calves, from the front of Margerie Glacier.

NPS Photo

Harbor Seal Pup on Iceberg
Harbor seal pup resting on an iceberg in Johns Hopkins Inlet.

NPS Photo

Glaciers are Important
Glaciers are an important part of Glacier Bay’s ecosystem. Many animals rely on glaciers for survival. Harbor seals give birth on icebergs. Kittlitz’s Murrelets, a rare seabird, nest near glaciers. Cold, silty, glacier meltwater is habitat for small fish which feed larger fish and other animals. Glaciers help wildlife thrive in Glacier Bay National Park. Glaciers also shape the land and are an active part of the park's geology.

Last updated: March 12, 2018

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Mailing Address:

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


907 697-2230

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