Mendenhall Glacier is located just a few miles outside
of Juneau, Alaska and is easily reached by road.
That is unlike Juneau itself which can't be reached
by road at all, except, of course, from Mendenhall
Glacier and nearby points. Anyway, this makes it a
well-visited glacier. Information and maps are at
this site, though the maps seem to be a few years
old, showing the glacier a bit longer than it is now.
I visited it twice, once on a sunny day and once on a
very foggy day. Here, to the left, is what it looked
like on the sunny day. Both days were in June, 2007.
|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.
Here it is on the foggy day, and the fog just kept
coming after I took this picture. I was very near
the Visitor Center for this picture, and that is a way
to describe how Mendenhall has been retreating.
Around 1940, the glacier reached all the way to that
That is a waterfall toward the right center of the
picture. If you scroll down the page at this link, you
will find an undated picture showing the glacier
extending past the waterfall. It also has several
other Mendenhall Glacier pictures. More on the
waterfall toward the bottom of my page here.
Mendenhall Glacier has its origin in a very large ice
field called the Juneau Ice Field. From Juneau, this
ice field runs north almost all the way to Skagway,
and it runs east into British Columbia. Check this for
I did NOT climb up on the glacier for this picture,
and if I had I would not have been able to walk and
would probably not have made it back. And the wall
of ice at the front of the glacier is around 100 feet
tall. So, good, old zoom lens!
Anyway, this is higher on Mendenhall as it winds its
way down from the Juneau Ice Field 13 miles away
and at an elevation of around 5000 feet. The
terminus has retreated from the sea but is still only
about 100 feet above sea level.
There is that roughly 100 foot ice wall in the
background with some icebergs in front of it.
The water is Mendenhall Lake, made of melted
glacier ice, and which started to form during
the 1920's. Before that the glacier itself
filled up the space now occupied by the lake,
another indication of the retreat of the glacier.
This lake is about 200 feet deep.
Of course, the icebergs have calved off of the
glacier. Calving is the process of ice chunks
breaking off, part of the melting process.
One indication that a glacier used to occupy the space above a rock is a system of
straight cut marks on the rock. The lines going left to right on the rock faces in the two
pictures above are such cut marks. They were made by other rocks gouged from the
ground by the glacier and stuck in the bottom. As the glacier moved by, the embedded
rocks cut the rocks in the ground under the glacier.
So it appears that Mendenhall Glacier once slid over these rocks.
However, here is Mendenhall Glacier
from the position of those rocks with
the cuts. In fact, one of the rocks
can be seen just to the left of the
bend in the trail in this picture.
Behind that is Mendenhall Lake and
then the glacier itself in the position it
has retreated to in 2007.
By the way, compare this, obviously
taken on the foggy day, with the
second picture from the top to see how
much the fog has closed in between the
That waterfall is the water in Nugget
Creek falling down the mountain. In
1996, Mendenhall Glacier reached
almost to the waterall on the right side
of this channel, though not on the left.
Here is a 1996 photo that I found on the
internet showing the ice reaching around
both of those lobes of land that are now
between the ice and the waterfall.
Unfortunately, the waterfall itself is just
out of the 1996 photo to the right.
If you compare that same 1996 picture with
this one, it seems to have been thicker on
the left side in 1996 even if it didn't
extend much farther down the valley. Here
is a 1998 photo in which it has retreated
from the waterfall but has not yet retreated
around that first lobe of land.
Also, check this 1990 video. In the very
first frame, you can see the ice almost
reaching the waterfall. And here is a 2001
helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier.