20 Things You'll See On A Kenai Fjords Boat Tour

Shimmering water, majestic peaks, and an impressive array of wildlife: a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park is the best way to take it all in. In this guide, rangers from Kenai Fjords National Park give you the scoop on what to look for—things that you otherwise might not know about. Learn about the oceanside town of Seward, impressive peaks and glacially carved valleys, and things to look for in the water and on the seaside cliffs. And of course, you’ll learn about the wildlife: the whales, bald eagles, stellar sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, mountain goats, and sea otters who call this area home.

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Walking Tour Points

If you had looked at the Seward water­front area before 1964, you would have seen fish pro­cess­ing plants, ware­hous­es, a small boat har­bor, var­i­ous plea­sure and com­mer­cial ves­sels, and huge Tex­i­co and Stan­dard Oil tanks. You would also have seen the Alas­ka Rail­road facil­i­ties and tracks which ran to the south end of town near where the Alas­ka Sea Life Cen­ter is today. That’s where steam­ers would come in to off and on load mate­ri­als. The bulk of…  ...more

One hun­dred and fifty years ago the val­ley now occu­pied by the ship facil­i­ty and cor­rec­tion­al cen­ter was filled with the ice of God­win Glac­i­er. If you look just below the 4 moun­tain peaks to the left side of the val­ley you can see the ice of God­win glac­i­er. In the year 1850 this glac­i­er calved ice­bergs into Res­ur­rec­tion Bay waters. Now a days God­win glac­i­er is a val­ley glac­i­er and behind the low hills you see in the fore­ground God­win glacier…  ...more

Look­ing beyond the penin­su­la you can see snow­capped moun­tains. Here you have a glimpse into the edge of the Hard­ing Ice­field. This ice­field is the main fea­ture of the Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park. Formed dur­ing the ice age some 20,000 years ago, the Hard­ing Ice­field is 30 miles wide by 50 miles long and in places pre­sumed to be 3000 – 5000 feet thick. There are at least 38 rivers of ice or glac­i­ers that flow out of the Hard­ing Ice­field. From here…  ...more

Look for three alpine glac­i­ers back in Thumb Cove. Alpine glac­i­ers keep their ice in the alpine region of a moun­tain and don’t descend to a val­ley floor or the tide­wa­ter’s edge. From the left the three are Prospect, Spoon and Por­cu­pine glac­i­ers. Notice the love­ly cab­in on the edge of Thumb Cove. The land of the Res­ur­rec­tion Penin­su­la is divid­ed between state park, nation­al for­est and pri­vate in-hold­ings. You will see sev­er­al pri­vate cabins.…  ...more

Around Thumb Cove, across the bay, there is a promi­nent head­land ris­ing 650′ above the bay. This is known as the Caine’s Head . Dur­ing World War II it was the site of Fort McGilvray. By land Fort McGilvray is 6 miles south of Seward but no road con­nect­ed the two. All sup­plies came to the fort by boat. There was a great fear that Seward might be attacked dur­ing the war. The fear stemmed from the fact that with the rail ter­mi­nus being located…  ...more

Bear Glac­i­er, found in Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park, is a tide­wa­ter glac­i­er and a pop­u­lar spot for kayak­ers, but you can eas­i­ly see it on a cruise from Seward. With mas­sive ice­bergs and blue waters, see­ing the glac­i­er up close is a thrilling expe­ri­ence. Many peo­ple camp on the out­er beach near Bear Glac­i­er, and enjoy the glac­i­er views in the back­ground. This is also a great area to check for whales, sea otters, puffins, and oth­er wildlife.

On the ocean side (not bay side) of Rugged Island you can look up on the ridge of this island and see a bright orange and white day mark­er just above an old WWII mil­i­tary look out sta­tion. Fort Bulk­ley was locat­ed on Rugged Island and this ridge was the first defense if any ene­my boats were to enter the bay.

As the boat pulls away from the nest­ing areas of the horned puffins it will turn left and again stay right next to the cliff face. You’ll notice some pelag­ic and pos­si­bly red-faced cor­morants nest­ing high on the cliff just after the boat turns to the left for the final stretch of Cape Resurrection.

Once we leave Bar­well Island the boat is as far out into the ocean as it gets. This is a good place to look for whales. Hump­back and Orca whales (killer whales) are the most like­ly to be spot­ted. Hump­backs are found by the ten foot tall cloud of mist that is formed when they exhale clear­ing their blow­hole. The obvi­ous fea­ture of the orca whale is its black dor­sal fin pen­e­trat­ing the sur­face. Male orca whales have a six foot high fin. Whale…  ...more

Anoth­er marine mam­mal you may encounter dur­ing this part of the trip is the Dal­l’s por­poise. This ani­mal is spot­ted when a repeat­ing splash pat­tern is seen on the sur­face of the water. The splash is called a roost­er tail” and is cre­at­ed by the dor­sal fin of the ani­mal cut­ting through the water at high speeds. The Dall por­poise can swim at least 35 mph and eas­i­ly pass this boat. How­ev­er, often times the por­poise will trav­el with the boat for a…  ...more

In the water, there is a tri­an­gu­lar­ly shaped large rock with a small­er tri­an­gu­lar rock in the water to its right. Atop this small­er rock we hope to find a group of the Steller sea lions. If we do not spot them here, they will be a lit­tle fur­ther south on the beach. Look for var­i­ous sizes and col­ors of ani­mals. Dark grey ani­mals have just left the water, brown or tan ani­mals have been out a while and are dry­er. Ful­ly grown males have a very…  ...more

Here is the local favorite area of our Horned and Tuft­ed puffins. You can tell the two species apart if you remem­ber that Tough Guys Wear Black.” The tuft­ed puffin’s body is entire­ly black with dis­tinc­tive long yel­low tufts” of feath­ers on either side of their head. Horned puffins have a white bel­ly and black back. These puffins come to land only to lay their eggs and raise their young. Puffins spend most of their lives about 400 miles away…  ...more

Some of the lit­tle caves on the tip of the cape con­tain nest­ing Com­mon mur­res. You may also be see­ing many of these mur­res on the water. They have black heads, black backs and white bel­lies. They are Alcids, like the puffins, so they are div­ing birds that use their wings for propul­sion under water. Of all the alcids, com­mon mur­res can dive the deep­est, plung­ing to record depths of at least 600 feet​.In addi­tion to the cave nesters on the Cape,…  ...more

There are islands trail­ing off in the dis­tance as you go out to sea. This group of islands is called the Chiswells and was formed in the same man­ner of the two islands ahead of you towards the one and two o’clock posi­tions. (Rugged and Hive islands). Think back to the sed­i­men­ta­ry for­ma­tion, it was scraped off of a sub­duct­ing North Pacif­ic Ocean­ic Tec­ton­ic plate. About a mile inland of the area of sub­duc­tion the North Pacif­ic plate begins to…  ...more

Up ahead the noise and odor of the Black legged Kit­ti­wakes will soon become appar­ent. These birds take advan­tage of the slight depres­sions in the rocks to build their nests. Their nest is sim­ply some grass and mud glued to the rock wall with their own guano. These birds nest in dense aggre­ga­tions as a means of pro­tec­tion against birds of prey.If a Bald eagle or Pere­grine fal­con flies into the area every bird will leave the rocks in one…  ...more

Just up ahead on the right is a small rock that sticks above the water and almost always has a mixed group of cor­morants stand­ing atop it dry­ing out their feath­ers. This long necked black bird dives in the water and uses its feet to swim but unlike the puffins and oth­er alcids has no oil in its feath­ers to aid in dry­ing off. So they stand out on rocks to get dry.Just up ahead on the left you will see a rock with many gulls on top of it and…  ...more