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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a massive area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, known as a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is lined by high peaks in which include Mount Fairweather. Also included are glaciers such as the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is considered the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife in this area includes humpback whales and puffins.


  • Glacier Bay National Park map (photo credit: uncruise adventures at https://www.uncruise.com/destinations/alaska-cruises/glacier-bay-national-park-adventure-cruise)

Glacier Bay National Park Visitor Center offers special programs, informational brochures, exhibits, a bookstore. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is west of Juneau, Alaska in which can only be reached by boat or aircraft. The only road there is that is relevant to the park only connects the small town of Gustavus and its airfield to park headquarters at Bartlett Cove. In 1794, Glacier Bay was first surveyed by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery in which was captained by George Vancouver. At that time of study, the survey showed a mere indentation in the shoreline.

The glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick, up to 20 miles wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias mountain range. However, by 1879, naturalist John Muir discovered that the ice had retreated more than 30 miles in which was forming an actual bay. The Grand Pacific Glacier had melted back 60 miles to the head of what is now Tarr Inlet, by 1916. John Muir and other conservationists made efforts for protecting Glacier Bay.

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation creating Glacier Bay National Monument. The monument, at that time, contained less than half the area of the present park. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act elevated the monument to national park status in 1980. They also extended the park boundary northwest to the Alsek River and Dry Bay. In 1986, further protection and recognition of Glacier Bay's significance occurred when the Glacier Bay-Admiralty Island Biosphere Reserve was established under the United Nations Biosphere Program. Glacier Bay became part of an international World Heritage Site in 1992.

Glacier Bay Lodge and Tours & Aramark. 2018. Park History. Website.  https://www.visitglacierbay.com/discover/park-history/