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Explore Alaska's Mighty Glaciers
by Roy Witman © 2008

When you say, “Alaska,” most people begin to conjure images of bears roaming the wilderness, moose grazing in the valley and salmon leaping from the rushing river currents. But did you know Alaska has-

· more coastline than all other states combined?
· 3 million lakes?
· 40% of its area protected in reserves and national parks?
· over 100 glaciers spanning 14 million acres?

It's the incredible blue-ice glaciers that have become an enormous draw to wildlife lovers all around the world. And, since Alaska has so many to offer, it has become the playground for glacier discovery.

Cruising is one of the most exciting ways to explore glaciers because you are actually on the water. Many cruise lines, including Holland America, offer tours to Glacier Bay National Park, College Fjord, the Inside Passage, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Hubbard Glacier.

Glacier Bay National Park A Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a protected ecosystem of plants and animals- Glacier Bay National Park is all these things. But what excites most visitors are the glaciers themselves.

According to Holland America's website, “when a monumental chunk of ice splits off a glacier and crashes into the sea, the sound is like thunder. The impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air. You hold your breath as you catch the moment on film. Then you wait for it all to happen again. And it does. Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than anyplace else in the world.” Truly thrilling to watch! But glacier discovery goes far beyond watching from afar.

Explore Via Canoe

When you want to get up close and personal, step into a 31-foot canoe and pull alongside the Davidson Glacier in Haines, Alaska. In addition, you'll encounter whales, sea lions and other native creatures often so close you would want to reach out and touch them. (Resist that urge!)

Step Out Onto A Glacier

The king of all tours is chartering a helicopter to fly you in, then actually stepping out onto a glacier. There's a certain reverence you feel when standing next to massive, jagged ice juts knowing the glacier they rise from took millions of years to form. Outfitted with special glacier boots, your guide will take you trekking across one of numerous glaciers including Chilkat Glacier, Ferebee Glacier or Meade Glacier. Along the way, you'll thrill at cascading waterfalls and crystal-like rivers of ice.

Flightseeing At Its Best

For photography buffs, flightseeing over wilderness areas and glaciers is a must. Helicopters get you closer than any plane could as you swoop over waterfalls and lush rainforests on your way to the Juneau Icefield with 36 named glaciers. A frozen, serene wonderland, just being in this area commands respect. Perhaps it's a sense of awe at this rare beauty. It could be concern for the future of this region. In fact, while most glaciers are retreating due to the possible affects of global warming, one in the Juneau Icefield is still advancing.

From icy spires to deep crevasses to eagles flying overhead, the photo opps on Alaska glaciers are fantastic and sure to provide memories that will last a lifetime.

Read more about Alaska Cruises.