Kenai Fjords National Park Overview
|Kenai Fjords National Park (Rich Reid/National Geogrpaphic/Getty)|
The mile-deep fjords of the Kenai Peninsula are like cathedrals of rock and ice where mankind can worship the sea—kayakers, fishermen, and wildlife enthusiasts will find themselves in a state of aquatic Zen as they behold the powerful grace of orca, humpback, gray, and fin-tail whales. The antics of smaller marine mammals such as sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions provide comic relief. The surrounding land is a raw and frozen desert of glaciers and ice caps that invites the adventurous hiker to explore the limits of the Alaskan wilderness as well as the wilderness within.
Boat through the Fjords
Ahoy, mate! The best way to explore the coastal mountain Fjords is by sea—experienced skippers can safely navigate the waters of sunken glacier-carved valleys. The Kenai Mountains are gradually being submerged by the collision of two tectonic plates, and deep-water fjords are created in the process. Stand on the bow and watch humpback whales spray water through their blowholes. Watch harbor seals float by on ice floes.
Hike to a Glacier
An Alaskan glacier is a great place to chill—an easy half-mile hike will get you to the terminus of Exit Glacier. The latter half of this short trail traverses the rocky debris of glacial moraine and bedrock before it reaches the tip of a three-mile-long glacier that descends 2,500 feet. The Harding Icefield Trail is a steep 3.86-mile climb along the flank of the Exit Glacier until it reaches an overlook of the massive Harding Icefield—at 300 square miles, it is one of the four major icefields in the United States.
Dodge the Icefall
Salt spray mixes with mountain mist as sea kayakers explore this icebound seascape—occasionally, giant slabs of glacier calve into the sea with a thundering boom that can be heard as far as 20 miles away. Kayakers frequent the sublime McCarty Fjord and Resurrection Bay, as well as secluded sea inlets all along the peninsula's southern coast. Kayakers will discover that other mammals also use flotation devices—harbor seals like to ride on drifting icebergs.
Watch Alaskan Wildlife
Alaska's marine mammals often try to steal the show at Kenai—but the Sitka spruce and hemlock forests shelter grizzlies and brown bears, wolverines, marmots, moose, and mountain goats. Look up in the sky and you can behold the bald eagle soaring above the fjord. And, yes, of course there is the aqua-loving wildlife: Stellar sea lions like to sun themselves on the rocky islands at the mouth of Aialik and Nuka Bays; Dall porpoises, killer, gray, humpback, and minke whales like to cruise the cold fjord waters.
Snag a Salmon
The migrating feeding frenzies of silver (aka coho), red (sockeye), chum (dog), and pink (humpback) salmon bridge the gap between Alaska's awesome saltwater and freshwater fishing. In the coastal waters around the Fjords and in Resurrection Bay, you'll find halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. Dolly Varden thrives in the freshwater rivers and streams. State fishing licenses are required.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication