Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Exit Glacier

Kenai Fjords National Park is not very far from where our home now is. The Harding Icefield's expanse covers over half of the 669,983-acre park and conceals a mountain range under ice several thousand feet thick. Exit Glacier is one of about 40 arms (glaciers) which project off from the Harding Icefields. It is one of the more accessible of all the glaciers for scientists to study environmental factors influencing glacial retreat and advance. From the park's visitor center we hiked over glacial moraines and bedrock to the edge of the glacier. It was awesome to be that close to it and look down into its ice-blue glacial crevasses.
While hiking to the glacier we noticed signs along the trail indicating the year the glacier at one time covered that part of the park. Where we finally stood to view the glacier was where it was located in 1998. Hard to believe that in 12 years it had retreated that far! It was also impressive to see the plant life which is now springing up from where ice had once lain for years. That is the fireweed flower in the picture below.
And below is the end of the glacier. We saw a large amount of water flowing out from under that end.The glacier descends 2,700 feet over its two mile length. It is believed that at one time it extended all the way to the town of Seward.
 We hiked from the glacier down to the rocky plain which is called the outwash of the glacier. All that water eventually flows into the Resurrection River. In the picture below of the outwash plain the glacier is in the background. It was a wet overcast day, which is also quite noticeable in that picture. However, despite the dampness of the hike, it was still quite a fascinating walk and unforgettable.  And I cannot help but wonder how much of that glacier future generations will be to see, given its present rate of retreat.

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