The Glacier Bay Province
The Glacier Bay province includes the present Glacier Bay watershed, plus large peripheral outwash systems at its southern margin that were distributors of glacial melt water at the peak of the Little Ice Age. The Glacier Bay watershed is a vast tract of land and water delimited to the east and north by the Chilkat and Takinsha Ranges, to the northwest by the high crest of the Fairweather Range, and to the west by the peaks and ridges forming the eastern margin of the Brady Glacier. From this peripheral rim a series of lower ridges extend radially inward, defining between them a complex of partially submerged and variously ice-occupied valleys which merge into two fjord systems---Muir Inlet and the West Arm. These in turn coalesce to form the main trunk of Glacier Bay.
Probably because of its funnel-shaped geography, Little Ice Age advances and retreats were magnified compared to other parts of the Glacier Bay region. With the exception of some lowlands at the province's southeastern and southwestern margins, the entire province was under ice or ice-generated outwash about 250 years ago. The retreat since that time has been one of the best-documented in the world. Though ice remains pervasive in peripheral highlands to the north and west, it has bared an extensive series of known-age land and seascapes which have become the premier laboratory in the world for study of ice-recessional phenomena and post-glacial biotic succession.
Wildlife is diverse and locally abundant, varying considerably along the successional gradient. Large concentrations of harbor seals, waterfowl and seabirds, moose and mountain goats lead the list of prominent species.
Except for minor private in holdings and the 18,000 acre Gustavus area, the Glacier Bay province is entirely included within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. It is the Park's core area, receiving the vast majority of the Park's visitor and scientific use.
Park headquarters at Bartlett Cove and the community of Gustavus, in the province's southeastern corner, are the only permanently settled localities. At the peak of the summer season, they may together have a resident and visitor population of perhaps 1,000 people. The great majority of park visits is via cruise ships, which do not disembark passengers on land in the area.