Scenic USA - Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier

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Mendenhall Glacier - Juneau, Alaska

Photos by Ginny West

     Alaska's capital city, Juneau, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, where many enjoy their first view of a glacier, take whale watching tours, experience Alaska wildlife, sport fishing or multi-day cruises. Best explained by U.S. Forest Service rangers, Mendenhall Glacier is one of 38 major glaciers flowing from the 1500 square mile Juneau Icefield. Just 13 miles from the capital city, tourists who come to see the glacier stand in awe, marveling at its size and beautiful colors. Unappreciated from afar, this 13-mile-long river of ice terminates on the far side of Mendenhall Lake. Named for 19th century surveyor Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center welcomes 450,000 visitors a year, and remains one of southeastern Alaska’s most popular attractions.
     While most visitors take the short Photo Point Trail for the best vantage point of Mendenhall Whale Sightings - a telling tail Glacier, others venture further out to explore a nearby rainforest or hike along the shore of Mendenhall Lake to Nugget Falls. In late summer and early fall, visitors may witnesses the spawning runs of sockeye and Coho salmon. Brown bears, which come to feast on the salmon run, provide quite an entertaining show. Sightings of porcupines, mountain goats, beavers, Sitka black tail deer, black bears and bald eagles offer additional rewards to wildlife watchers. The Juneau area features a variety of sea-life tours, where whales, porpoise, sea lions, seals, sea otters, arctic terns and other waterfowl top the list.
     Whether you arrive by car, taxi, shuttle or city bus, it's recommended that visitors check out the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Here the center's film and video exhibits point out all the area's highlights, stress bear and ice safety, offer weather alerts and predictions, and point out other potential hazards.

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