Wrangell–St. Elias National Park: Hubbard Glacier

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 established Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in south central Alaska. At over 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias covers the largest area managed by the National Park Service. Its area makes up over 15% of all national park land in the United States.

The park includes the Saint Elias Mountains, with most of the highest peaks in the United States and Canada. Mount Saint Elias stands at over eighteen thousand feet. The mountains run steeply down to the sea, with only 10 miles of separation. The main distinction between park and preserve lands is that sport hunting is prohibited in the park and permitted in the preserve.

Volcanoes and glaciers both shaped Wrangell–St. Elias. The Bagley Icefield covers much of the park’s interior, which includes 60% of the permanently ice-covered terrain in Alaska. Mount Wrangell is an active volcano, one of several volcanoes in the park. There are several glaciers within park boundaries including Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska.

The day after we sailed Glacier Bay National Park, our cruise ship entered Disenchantment Bay and took us to the Hubbard Glacier. It was considerably colder up on deck than it had been in Glacier Bay. We were awed by the sheer immensity of Hubbard!

Hubbard Glacier

The Hubbard Glacier flows 75 miles and calves into Disenchantment Bay with a face that’s six miles wide. Hubbard advances about 80 feet per year. It takes the ice 400 years to travel the length of the glacier.

The 400-year old ice at the foot of the glacier is partially submerged. So the cruise ships must be careful not to get too close. We were still close enough to see the calving.

Hubbard is very close to Bert Point. Twice, the advancing ice has reached the Point, creating a dam. The dam cut off Russell Fjord from Disenchantment Bay. Both times, floodwaters eventually washed the dam away and restored the ecosystem.

Wrangell–St. Elias Posts

Location: South Central Alaska
Designation: National Park and Preserve
Date designated/established: December 2, 1980
Date of my visit: June 5, 2022