Portage was once a roadside glacier, but it recedes an average of one foot a day and is now no longer visible from the road. However, its big blue icebergs are often found along the shore of the lake, right in front of the parking area. You can see the lake in a half hour, but may want to spend time at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center (½-1 hour), take the boat cruise (1 hour), or have lunch at the local cafeteria.
Directions: Head south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway, to the end of the 5-mile Portage Spur Road. You can visit the face of Portage by tour boat from the dock at the lake. Bring a light jacket, as winds tend to pick up around the face of the glacier itself.
Distance: 48 miles south of Anchorage.
Drive Time: 1 hour.
Explore Time: 1-4 hours.
Columbia glacier is located in Prince William Sound. At over 550 meters thick at some points and covering an area of 400 square miles, this glacier is a sight to behold, whether from a boat or the sky. It snakes its way 32 miles through the Chugach Mountains before dumping into the Columbia Bay, about 40 miles by boat from Valdez.
The famous surveyor Mendenhall named this glacier for a miner who was carrying mail from Cook Inlet to Whittier in 1896, disappeared in a snowstorm, and was never seen again. His brother Willard (who gives his name to the nearby island) searched for him but found only the mail packet atop the glacier which now bears his name.
The last two aerial photographs in this group of five document changes that occurred during the 69 years between June 1937 and July 28, 2006. Both photographs are taken towards the north and show the retreating, calving, tidewater terminus of Yale Glacier, located at the head of Yale Arm, College Fiord, Prince William Sound, Alaska. In 1937, Yale Glacier’s terminus was More...
The 2000 photograph documents the continuing advance of Harvard Glacier, which has completely obscured the view of Radcliff Glacier. Baltimore Glacier has continued to retreat and thin. Alder has become established on the hill slopes, but is difficult to see from the photo location. Harvard Glacier has advanced more than 1.25 kilometers (0.78 miles) since 1909. (USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia).
Like its name implies, Cascade twists steeply down a mountainside into the west side of Barry Arm. The dividing line between Cascade and Barry Glacier is sometimes hard to distinguish, because they converge into each other. Cascade is in rapid retreat. The large rock behind the kayaker in this photo was under ice only five years ago. Today, the rock is not only exposed, but the More...
Barry Glacier actually flows behind College Fjord and parallel to it for a dozen miles before plunging into the head of Barry Arm. On many days, it spawns enough ice into the Arm to prevent boats from getting close. It all depends on the tide, winds, and calving activity. Sometimes, a bay clear of ice can fill up in less than an hour.
A few hundred feet above the boat, you'll see Northland Glacier perched atop sheer rock. This glacier calves a lot. The ice blocks ricochet and shatter down the rock face before exploding into the water below. It's an exciting spectacle. Also, a steady waterfall drains down; to the side, you'll see a kittiwake rookery.
Beloit Glacier fluctuates betwen 125 and 250 feet high at water's edge depending on recent calving activity. Calving diminishes the face but it builds back up again quickly as the glacier descends to sea. Nonetheless, the glacier is in rapid retreat; you can spot bedrock becoming exposed at the base of the glacier. It was named after the Wisconsin college, as were most of the other More...