Kenai Fjords National Park: Exit Glacier

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Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park protects the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States. Harding’s outflowing glaciers carved the park’s coastal fjords and islands. At 670k acres, the Kenai Fjords ranks 11th out of Alaska’s 13 National Park sites in size.

President Carter designated the Kenai Fjords National Monument using the Antiquities Act. Efforts to make Kenai a National Park began during the Nixon administration, but stalled in Congress due to the Watergate scandal. Following the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, Kenai Fjords became a full-fledged park.

In March of 1989, the Exxon Valdez round aground to the East of Kenai Fjords in Prince William Sound. Ten million gallons of oil spilled into the sound and drifted southwest with the current. This was the largest oil spill in American history and threatened four national park units, including Kenai Fjords. Kenai is 40 miles west of Prince William Sound. Exxon employees, federal workers and Alaskan residents worked to restore the environment for three years! The clean-up cost 2.5 billion dollars. Over thirty years later, traces of the disaster still linger.

Exit Glacier►

Once our ship reached Seward, we disembarked and boarded the ACT Big Bus for a transfer tour from Seward to Anchorage, First stop was the NPS visitor center for Exit Glacier. From there, we set out for the Glacier Overlook.

On the paved Glacier View Trail, we encountered signs with years on them. These signs indicated where the glacier’s terminus had been in that year. On the drive in, we’d see the 1889 sign. When we first reached the banks of Exit Creek, we found the 1926 sign.

The Harding Ice Field is a remnant of the huge ice sheet that once covered Alaska. It still feeds 40 glaciers, including Exit Glacier. Around seventy feet of sow fall on Harding annually.

The paved Glacier View Trail gave way to the Glacier Overlook Trail. This trail climbs over deglaciated bedrock and brings visitors fairly close to the glacier. I made it to the 2005 sign and the glacier was still pretty far away. As the climate continues to warm, viewing Exit Glacier will become more and more challenging.

Seward Posts

Location: Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: December 2, 1980
Date of my visit: June 6, 2022

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