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"We are delighted to have you as our guest. We invite you to breathe in the ageless spirit  
of Kenai Fjords National Park and cruise through a land that is wild and wide,  
full of life, a world untouched, unblemished, sparkling. Welcome aboard."
~ Stirring the Senses, A Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park, a handsome
 photo booklet published by Alaska Geographic for the Kenai Fjords Tours company

This was our best–weather day yet in Seward and excellent timing for a marine tour. It was so good to see blue sky and sunshine for several hours, especially while we were out in the gulf south of Resurrection Bay.

Most of the immense Kenai Fjords National Park is inaccessible by car -- or foot, for that matter.

Deep into Aialik (EYE-a-lick) Fjord

In previous entries I showed photos of Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield Trail, the only accessible places to reach by car, then foot.

About half of the park lies under the vast Harding Icefield and most of the remainder is along mountainous coastline with numerous coves and fjords carved out by wind, water, and glacial ice over the millennia.

The best ways for visitors to see the spectacular scenery are by boat or plane. We chose a marine tour so we could see the landscape and animals close up. That was a good choice.


I can't write as eloquently as the lovely prose in the booklet quoted above but I'll do my best in this entry to describe what we saw, heard, smelled, and felt today and illustrate those observations with some of the photos we took.

From the water, majestic mountains dominate the view in every direction:


About forty named glaciers flow down from the ice field in the valleys between the mountain peaks. We could see several of them during our tour:

Aialik Glacier, at today's turnaround point

Bear Glacier

Holgate Glacier

Pederson Glacier

Interesting rocky cliff faces with nooks, crannies, and caves provide rookeries for nesting sea birds:


Picturesque Three-Hole Point

A pair of puffins find shelter in a niche in the colorful rocks at Emerald Cove.

Little rocky islets and outcrops dot the fjords, giving harbor seals and Steller sea lions (shown below) a sunny perch:

These two types of hardy marine mammals, as well as sea otters, remain here year-round; they do not migrate south in the winter like the whales and most of the bird species we observed.

Waterfalls fed by copious summer rain, snowmelt, and hanging glaciers tumble from the mountainsides to the sea:

Hardy spruce and hemlock trees, shrubs, and low-growing plants form a lush, narrow strip of bright emerald green between the crashing waves and the treeless alpine zone that begins at about 1,000 feet elevation in the park:

A humpback whale breaches the water near thickly forested slopes; we got to watch several whales.

This view from Aialik Fjord shows peaks well above tree line in the background.

This is the northern limit of the temperate rain forest. Above a thousand feet, snow, ice -- and in the summer, exposed rocks -- define the mountain peaks.


I've been waiting since we got here to get some blue-sky harbor scenes. I took this picture of the small boat harbor before our cruise began this morning:

That's what I'm talkin' about!!

I mentioned in a previous entry some of the reasons why we chose Kenai Fjords Tours for our day cruise. It is one of several companies offering sea excursions in Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Fjords National Park coastline. Kenai Fjords Tours is part of a regional corporation that is owned and operated by Native Alaskans.

Bottom line: we were very pleased with our choice of tour companies, the knowledge of our captain, the route we took to and from Aialik Glacier, and the length of our tour (six hours).

We had a great time and definitely feel like we got our money's worth.

Aialik Glacier from several miles out in the fjord; our boat got much closer than this.

Jim took a bunch of photos with our older 12-megapixel Canon camera and I took even more with the new Sony 16-megapixel, 16x zoom camera that I'm still learning to use.

I already wish I'd gotten a more sophisticated camera. <sigh> The Sony is fairly adequate for landscape photos but I couldn't get detailed close-ups of all the wildlife we saw, especially birds, far-off whales, and a mountain goat high on a cliff.

Fortunately, the adorable sea otters and playful Steller sea lions, like the ones below, were close enough -- and big enough -- to come out pretty well in the cropped pictures:

This entry is three pages long. I edited the 500+ pictures we took down to about 300. I'll include enough here (about 70) to give you a decent virtual tour of the scenery and wildlife we enjoyed.

Nothing compares to being there in person, though.

Jim took this photo of me (blue jacket) as we watched Aialik Glacier calve for about 1/2 hour.
The face of the glacier is 200-300 feet high; we're out several hundred yards from it for safety reasons.

If you're in Seward, we highly recommend taking one of the marine day tours by Kenai Fjords Tours or Major Marine -- especially if the weather prediction down in the fjords is promising. It can be overcast or raining in Resurrection Bay but clear farther south.

Both companies have been around a good while and are reputable. Each has several lengths of tours (2+ to 9+ hours) that cover various routes and may be modified depending on the weather, water conditions, time of year, and where the wildlife is located that day.

For example, on the way back our captain detoured a bit to go past Emerald Cove, where we saw lots of birds and a mountain goat:

He also paused each time a whale, sea otter, sea lions, or other critters were spotted, allowing passengers to take photos and watch the marine animals do what they naturally do.

We could hear him sharing such information with other captains during our trip. I like that spirit of cooperation.

A humpback whale exhales ("blows") and breaches (comes partly 
out of the water, above) and begins another dive, revealing its fluke (below).

Our six-hour tour went south through Resurrection Bay along the Kenai Peninsula coastline past Caines Head and the large Bear Glacier, around Aialik Cape and into the long fjord that contains Holgate, Pederson, and Aialik glaciers, and back north on a more easterly route past Emerald Cove between some islands and Cape Resurrection.

I drew the general route in yellow on this map section:

We deliberately chose a tour that didn't stop for a meal at Fox Island, which this company owns (on the right middle of map section). We wanted to spend the maximum time on the water.

You can see a larger map of Kenai Fjords National Park and the Gulf of Alaska at this link.

Continued on the next page . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil