Mendenhall Glacier is a beautiful frozen band of ice which is located 12 miles outside of Juneau, Alaska. Simultaneously, the glacier is over 13 miles long and occupies the Mendenhall Valley in Alaska’s southeast corner. Sitaantaagu (the native designation for “the glacier behind the town”) and surrounding area is protected in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. Simultaneously, this area is part of Tongass National Forest.
Mendenhall Glacier is a calving glacier which terminates in Mendenhall Lake. The lake started forming around 1929 from excessive meltwater. Since then, the glacier’s end has retreated 1.75
miles up the valley due to a warming global environment. It reached it’s maximus in the mini ice age of the 1700s. The glacier will stabilize for a short while as warm air at the head of the glacier creates snow, and balances the rate of recession.
The lake is the breeding home of trout and salmon, and serves as the freshwater supply for Juneau. Additionally, the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area has an abundance of trails which start at the Visitor Center. They offer some unique opportunities for landscape, vegetation, and wildlife viewing. Catch views of ice bergs floating, glaciers calving, and the snow peaked coastal mountains nearby.
As the glacier recedes, old growth trees and shrubs come back to life. We can observe that some of these forests are ancient. Some being almost 2,000 years old! These old growth forests are fed by the life cycle of salmon. Subsequently, this symbiotic ecosystem creates space for both flora and fauna to thrive.
Juneau is a unique city. Not only is it the state capital, it is also requires some different methods for transportation. No roads connect from outside. With no road access, folks travel in by boat or plane. Tourists flood in by cruise ship, and ferry service that is able to transport vehicles as well. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is open year round and welcoming when the rest of the state is a frozen block of ice.