Category Archives: Glacier Bay National Park

The Rainforests of Southeast Alaska

southeast-alaska-rainforestEverything is green. Even the air looks green. It’s fresh and alive and green – a temperate rainforest. There are two types of rainforests; tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests. The tropical type resides in equatorial regions, whereas the temperate variety is generally found along coasts on just about every continent on earth.

By definition a temperate rainforest receives between 60 – 200 inches of rain annually. The canopy of trees covering the forest excludes 70 percent of the sky. Temperatures range from as high as 80 degrees in the summer to near freezing in the winter. The mean annual temperature is 39 – 54 degrees. Temperate rainforests are coniferous (cone-bearing) or broadleaf forests. That means one will see plenty of Sitka Spruce trees, Douglas fir, Red Cedar and Western Hemlock. The forest floor is covered with ferns, mosses, lichens and small plants. And there is an abundance of flora and fauna – so much so – that scientists say there is more biomass in a temperate rainforest than any other biome on earth. There are, on average, 500 tons of living things per acre – that translates into 206 pounds per square yard.

rainforest-southeast-alaskaThe nation’s largest forest is the Tongass National Forest with 17 million acres – so designated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1917. Nestled inside the Tongass in southeast Alaska is some of the most lush vegetation found anywhere on the planet. It’s part of the largest temperate rainforest region in the world. It stretches from central California to southeast Alaska.

Any itinerary to The Last Frontier should include a trip to the temperate rainforest of southeast Alaska. Excursions can be planned from Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve just outside of Gustavus, Alaska. There are guided hikes or independent treks. All hikes are guaranteed to fascinate with forest floors covered with ferns, mosses, lichens and small plants. Red squirrels, porcupine, woodpeckers, maybe even a meandering moose or bear will make an appearance. Trails shrouded in mist with trees wrapped and drenching with moss, it’s a magical – even mystical outing.

Just be prepared for green. Green like you’ve never experienced before.

Glacier Bay Day Cruise – A Day of Family Fun

Little-Boy-Alaska-Glaciers

We took our little family on the Glacier Bay Day cruise and it was great family fun for all! When you load up on the ship the first thing to do is pick a seat. Since we were cruising with little kids we chose a seat (cushy bench style) a few rows back so as not to disturb cruisers without children right by the window. They gave us each our own mug that we could re-fill at our leisure from the soda fountain. Of course they had sprite, my son’s favorite. Then we were free to move about the ship as we wished. We had a great time going outside when the sites were something that we wanted to experience a little closer and ‘natural’ otherwise we hung out on our roomy, cozy bench. If you go, I’d recommend taking jackets & gloves because it got a little cold/windy up close to the glaciers. Along the way we saw all sorts of wildlife including puffins, sea lions, and a couple grizzly cubs with their mom. They have a park ranger on board and he was fun to listen to and was available to ask questions as well. Our little boy completed the ‘Junior Ranger’ booklet and then they swore him in officially (it was really cute).

The boat captain was great to slow down during the interesting sites/wildlife along the way. There are a lot of different glaciers to see, I was really surprised. When we got back to the Margerie Glacier it was AMAZING to say the least. I will never forget being so close to hear it cracking and calving (the official term for little pieces cracking off into the ocean). The captain did a good job by turning off the boat and doing a few spins so everybody on the deck could get a great view and pictures. My kids were even in awe of it. It was absolutely worth our time and money. We couldn’t go all that way to Alaska and not see the glaciers up close. Along the way back to Gustavus we even saw a couple of orcas (killer whales) migrating, they were pretty far off but still it was awesome to see them in the wild. We loved the Glacier Bay Day Cruise and would recommend it to anyone visiting the Glacier Bay National Park.