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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covers 3.2 million acres of marine ecosystems in Southeast Alaska. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the area around Glacier Bay a national monument under the Antiquities Act on February 26, 1925. President Jimmy Carter expanded it in 1978.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act enlarged the national monument again on December 2, 1980 and created the National Park and Preserve. Of the 3.2 million acres, 2.7 million are a designated wilderness area. A portion of the Preserve allows for commercial fishing and hunting and subsistence uses for the Tlingit community.
Glacier Bay became part of a binational UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Our cruise ship entered the bay at Icy Strait. In 1794, the Vancouver Expedition attempted to enter at this point and found the channel entirely covered by one large tidewater glacier. In 1879, John Muir found the ice had retreated 48 miles up the bay.
Two rangers transferred onto the NCL Jewel from a National Park Service boat at the mouth of the bay. They narrated our day-long journey up the bay past several tidewater glaciers. At times, we could see the Ruby Princess keeping pace with us, but for most of the day we sailed alone through the gorgeous icy scenery.
Grand Pacific Glacier►
Glacier Bay National Park protects over one thousand glaciers. Of those, seven are tidewater glaciers. Four of the tidewater glaciers calve icebergs into the bay.
We spent time near four of the tidewater glaciers: Lamplugh Glacier, Johns Hopkins Glacier, Margerie Glacier and Grand Pacific Glacier. We had a clear sunny day and enjoyed viewing the scenery from the top deck while drinking hot chocolate. After the Johns Hopkins Glacier, we sailed into the Tarr Inlet. The Tarr Inlet contains the remnants of the Grand Pacific Glacier as well as the Margerie Glacier.
The ranger told me, that while the Grand Pacific isn’t much to look at now, it is the grandfather of Glacier Bay. This is the glacier that carved the bay out. Over the course of 250 years, it receded to the head of Tarr Inlet. Landslides covered the ice with debris, so it’s hard to tell it was once a force of nature strong enough to create Glacier Bay.
Glacier Bay Posts►
Location: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Designation: National Park and Preserve
Date designated/established: December 2, 1980
Date of my visit: June 4, 2022