Kenai Fjords National Park marks the 2nd Alaskan National Park Profile I will do for my Alaska Trip. In terms of raw statistics, Kenai Fjords is the closest park to Anchorage, yet only the 5th most visited park in the state. It’s comparable in size to Yosemite National Park, and was initially protected by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, but upgraded to a National Park in 1980.
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the most rapidly changing landscapes there is. The ice fields and glaciers are in a state of recession (and have been for over 100 years, so don’t blame “Global Warming”), McCarthy Glacier, and Northwestern Glacier have seen massive retreats since the turn of the century, just look at the map, those dotted lines are the locations of the glacier in those years. This rapidly changing landscape opens up a whole new world that has never been seen by man (or at least not in thousands of years). And before you get all concerned, 60 feet or more of snow falls on average each year over the Harding Ice field. Within as little as 4 years, that snow gets compacted and turned into new layers on the Glaciers.
The retreating glaciers open up the namesake of the park, numerous Fjords – long, narrow inlets with steep sides that form due to erosion caused by glaciers. These fjords provide ripe habitat for all sorts of wildlife in the:
- Alaskan brown bears
- Bald Eagles
- Stellar’s jays
Depending on what you want to do you can see any or all of them, but, the most common way to see the park is via boat cruises around the various bays and fjords. This can be via large commercial Cruise ships, which many arrive, and leave out of Seward, or via smaller boats that fit a few dozen people, or all the way down to single person kayaks. There’s a couple of miles of established trails around Exit Glacier, which is the only road accessible glacier, other than that it’s all back country. However, the steep sided cliffs, and young, raw land make hiking difficult to do anyway. Many of the small coves, and islands have designated campgrounds, and there’s even 2 public use cabins located in the park. The cabins need to be reserved in advance, and you have to find your own way there, but they offer you a roof over your head in case you don’t want to sleep outside.
I am looking to do a multi-day kayaking trip into Kenai. I’ll probably end up spending 4 days total in the area, 1 day to explore the Exit Glacier area, 2 days to kayak, and a last day to acclimate myself. I’m currently planning on making Kenai my first stop in this grand expedition of mine.