EXIT GLACIER -- AND A LARGE ICE FIELD
Exit Glacier (picture to the left) is a few miles
outside of Seward, AK, and it is one of the few
glaciers that you can drive or ride a bus to. It is
also the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park that
you can reach without a boat or plane. Here is a
page with several links to maps of the area.
This and the other glaciers in Kenai Fjords drain ice
from a huge reservoir of ice called an ice field --
specifically the Harding Ice Field named after
President Harding. Glaciers don't have to start in an
ice field, but many do. There are some good
pictures of it in the gallery at this link, and you can
find some more links to it on the way to the bottom
of my page here.
|You can click in each picture to get a larger version. Use the "back" button to return from
the larger version. If the picture snaps down to fit your screen, put the mouse pointer in it,
wait for an icon to appear in the lower right, and click the icon to see the large version.
There is a trail along the side of Exit Glacier that
takes you all the way up to the ice field. I
discovered that the round trip is over seven (7!) miles
and you gain about 3000 feet of elevation. OK, not
me! But here is an account written by someone who
did it with more pictures of the ice field. For still
more ice field pictures, try this, and this (where you
will discover the need to look out for bears up there),
and this, and this, and this.
So I was content to fool around at the terminus (lower
end) of the glacier, pictured to the left. This is a
close up of the very end of the glacier in the first
picture above. There are some signs and some guy
down there to give you an adea of the scale.
Maybe I can't climb 3000 feet, but I can do this.
(Yup, that's me.) That glacier ice I am leaning
against may look loose and crumbly, but it was
actually hard as a rock. And cold. The
temperature of the air was fairly warm; after all, it
was the melting season. You can probably tell that
by looking. But it was COLD leaning against that ice.
I am not sure how fast this particular glacier flows down its slope. Often glaciers flow at just
a few feet a year, but sometimes it is measured in miles per year. In any case, it is hard to
imagine this big structure moving like a train from right to left. If someone took a picture,
say every month, and ran the pictures like a movie, then you would see this thing really
|There is a trail that you can walk a little way up the glacier (without being an athlete) so that
you can see it from the side. Here are a couple of side views.
So here I am looking straight up the side
of Exit Glacier while trying to imagine all
of that ice sliding down at me. The
Harding Ice Field, all 700 square miles
of it, lies well up the glacier out of sight
in this picture. Even though you can't
see it here, try this link. It will show
you a view from above that you can zoom
and move around on so that you can see
Like most glaciers, Exit Glacier has
been shrinking. The lower end of it
has been pulling back over the years, a
fact that is documented all over its
corner of the park. Here is a side
view of the sign showing where it was in
1951 with its 2007 position in the
background. I also put the 1951 sign
in an inset because I couldn't get the
face of the sign and the glacier itself
in the same frame.
The snout of the glacier is at the extreme lower
right of this picture with the meltwater flowing
out from under it. The 1951 extent of Exit
Glacier roughly coincides with the vegetation in the
distance, although in 1951 it extended a little way
into the present-day vegetation on the left side
out of the picture.
The Harding Ice Field is also losing mass. Here
is a short article about how much it has lost on
the average, and here is another, more
systematic article showing a few places where it
has become a little thicker in spite of thinning
over most of its surface.
In 1917, it extended all the way to this
sign. The 2007 position is mostly out of
sight behind those trees, although you can
see a little of it.
And finally, try this link for a You Tube
video (about 10 minutes long) of a nice,
leisurely, scenic plane ride (with music) over
the Harding Ice Field.