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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.
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.
Margerie Glacier extends upstream for 21 miles from Tarr Inlet to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root. While most of the tidewater glaciers in the park have been receding over the last several decades, Margerie Glacier has become stable. It is neither growing nor receding.
The steep drop off of Margerie Glacier terminus allows cruise ships and smaller park tour boats to anchor nearby providing close-up views of ice calving. We were lucky enough to see the calving…small icebergs breaking off from the glacier and floating towards our cruise ship.
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