The 700-square-mile Harding Icefield, one of four major ice caps in the United States, crowns Kenai Fjords National Park. The icefield may be a remnant of the Pleistocene ice masses once covering half of Alaska. The magnificent coastline of Kenai Fjords is steep valleys that were carved by glaciers in retreat. Active glaciers still calve and crash into the sea as visitors watch from tour boats here. Sea stacks, islets, and tagged shoreline are remnants of mountains now inching imperceptibly into the sea under the geological force of the North Pacific tectonic plate. Exit Glacier, the park's most accessible area, can be reached by car and a short walk. The glacier is a nine-mile drive off the highway.
Moose, bears, and a large population of mountain goats inhabit the land. Steller sea lions haul out on rocky islands at the entrances to the fjords Wildlife includes harbor seals that rest on icebergs, porpoises, sea otters, and Killer (orca) and other whales. Thousands of sea birds—horned and tufted puffins, common murres. and black-legged kittiwakes—rear their young on steep cliffs.
Access: Seward, 130 miles south of Anchorage via the Seward Highway, is the gateway to Kenai Fjords. Served by scheduled buses, commuter flights, and railroad, Seward offers charter boats and aircraft services. The park visitor center is next to the Harbormaster's office in Seward's small boat harbor and offers area information, a slide show, and videos, exhibits, and a bookstore. Ranger led programs are offered in summer. Approximate Size: 669,000 acres. For information contact: Superintendent, Kenai Fiords National Park, P.O. Box 1727, Seward, AK 99664-1727; 907-224-3175; www.nps.gov/kefj
You can see the Harding Icefield on the popular Harding Icefield Trail which departs from the Exit Glacier Visitor Center in Seward, Alaska. Or, see it from above on the Harding Icefield Tour with Natron Air, which departs from the Kenai / Soldotna area.