“The next morning’s six-hour tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park was dazzling in a whole new way, as we glided past three towering glaciers, including the majestic Ailik Glacier, where we stopped amid its floating icebergs to hear its thunderous calving. On our journey back to Seward, we passed humpback whales and orcas, plus more sea lions, otters, and puffins.”
This is a review from Devorah Lev-Tov of Travel + Leisure, when the writer journeyed through the Kenai Fjords National Park, located in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska, United States of America.
ABOUT THE PARK
The Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the national protected areas in the borough and the Chugach National Forest and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The park stretches to an area of over almost 700,000 acres. Including in this territory is one of the country’s largest ice fields, the Harding Icefield.
Named for its several fjords carved by the glaciers, there are around 38 glaciers and the largest of which is the Bear Glacier. Its most visited destination, Exit Glacier, is found nearby the park’s only road.
In Deborah Lev-Tov’s statement, she didn’t shy away from the many magnificent terrestrial and marine animals called this park their home. Mammal Species in the park are the timber wolf, porcupine, Canadian lynx, moose, seal, beaver, coyote, and mountain goat. Marine mammals in the park include the sea otter, harbor seal, and Stellar Sea Lion. Orcas, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, and the Pacific white-sided dolphins have been spotted in the park.
HISTORY OF THE PARK
Before this area was proposed as a park, several studies were made between the 1930s and 1940s, first entitled Alaska – Its Resources and Development. Because it focused on tourism, co-author Bob Marshall spoke up because he wanted to highlight its preservation.
In the 1970s, discussions on Kenai Fjords as a national park was made. Ten years later, on December 2, 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was signed into law. In virtue of the said rule, the Kenai Fjords became a national park. Most of the lands claimed were that of the coastline.
ATTRACTIONS & ACTIVITIES OF THE PARK
⦁ Tidewater and Alpine Glaciers
This former is a glacier that flows from land, down to the sea or ocean, and terminates there by calving while the latter is one that forms in mountain basins and then masses of snow or ice build and expand down the peak. The park has many of these particular types of glaciers.
⦁ Ranger-Led Program
Many programs are offered that go along with an experienced ranger’s assistance from day hikes to short walks and interpretative walks. Some talks discuss the animals that inhabit the location, or those specially designed to cater to younger visitors.
⦁ Harding Icefield Trail Hike
Hikers that choose this trail take steps on an 8.2-mile length back and forth. For every mile, hikers gain 1000 feet of elevation and take about 6-8 hours to accomplish. It is indeed a challenging journey, but the top’s view is spectacularly worth it by giving people a picturesque panoramic view of the park.
⦁ Boat Tour
Much of the park can be appreciated when journeying across the waters. Often offering tours around the Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay, spectators can glimpse the Gulf of Alaska and catch a peek of the birds and marine mammals who live in the food-rich waters.
From the earliest inhabitants to its current visitors, people have been kayaking and paddling around the Kenai Peninsula Coast. Often recommended for more experienced paddlers, some guides can help those kayaking beginners.
⦁ Sea Otters and Sea Lions
These amazing animals can be found in the park. Once having a population of hundreds of thousands, Sea Otters now near extinction. But thanks to wildlife preservation programs, they continue to thrive in the park. They can be frequently found in the Seward harbor near the entrance of the park. Sea Lions can also be spotted in the park. During Breeding Season, they are often seen cruising the harbor.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE PARK
If anyone wants to enter and camp in the park, Kenai Fords National Park doesn’t charge anything for entrance or camping fees! It’s free.
Many visitors are Ornithophiles (bird lovers), and Kenai Fjords gives them an exceptional experience. May it be that they came on the cruise tours for the bird watching, or an addition to the many activities planned for, people can spot the most sought-for bird in the park, the Puffin.
Ice covers half of the park. The Fjords’ many glaciers continue to move, and its subtle creaks and groans can still be heard. Some of its glaciers have vibrant blue hues because the ice is thick, causing air bubbles to be squeezed away. Light transmitting ice crystals are then born, scattering blue light.
These ethereal blue contrasts on the ice, these magnificent creatures, the peaceful ambiance, and the breathtaking view bring many tourists to the park. They will continue to lure millions of travelers for the next years.