Glacier Bay Visitor and Vessel Distribution

Visitor and Vessel Surveys

The Glacier Bay Wilderness Visitor Use Management Plan (1989) states that "where necessary for the preservation of wilderness resources or values the NPS shall determine carrying capacities, and where resource impacts or use demands exceed established thresholds or capacities, may limit or redirect use."

Because some areas of the park’s backcountry are more camper friendly then other areas, visitors tend to frequent the same campsites. In these areas, we may be exceeding the thresholds set forth by this plan. It is not unusual to come upon a chosen campsite only to find someone else already in place. To address this issue and determine the carrying capacity of various areas of the park, Glacier Bay staff began a backcountry visitor and vessel owner survey program in 1996.

The survey will be used to identify the distribution of campers in the park’s backcountry and used to determine a carrying capacity, if needed for these areas. Therefore, for the fourth summer, Glacier Bay National Park will be asking backcountry visitors to fill out a survey form upon the completion of their trip. This form is voluntary and designed to identify where people are camping within the bay proper. Information from this surveys are entered into a Microsoft Access database and the park’s Geographic Information System (GIS). From this we have been able to identify where backcountry visitors and vessel owners camped and anchored throughout Glacier Bay and produce maps of their distribution by day, month, year, and geographic location.

Also included in this study, are surveys of administrative vessel use. Eventually the survey may be extended to those vessels and visitors that travel along the outer coastline of the park.

Survey Results

We collected 370, 530, and 441 surveys for 1996-1998, respectively, from visitors to the backcountry. Campsites were distributed along the entire coastline of the park. The campsite destinations and travel routes of individual groups closely corresponded to the areas where they began their trip. Those individuals who were began their trip in the lower east arm tended to camp in the east arm. Those individuals who were began their trip in the lower west arm tended to remain in the west arm. Some of the more heavily used campsites were areas near tidewater glaciers and kayaker/camper drop-off locations.

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Last updated: June 8, 2018

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Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


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