Kenai Fjords

Above photo: Prospector and his friend taking off from Seward, Alaska circa 1900-1930. Courtesy Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Right: Holgate Glacier. Courtesy National Park Service.

Kenai Fjords, Holgate Glacier

Kenai Fjords National Park

The land of Seward's folly, just west of his namesake town. A visit to Kenai Fjords National Park is a summer treat, with glaciers dipping into the sea, whales diving into the water outside your boat excursion, and bears crossing a glacier path. It's a rather inaccessible place in the winter, with reduced services in fall and spring, although you can make it down from Anchorage to Seward then, but the Visitor Center will be closed. So plan your trip for June, July, and August, then marvel at the land of historic beauty and more than enough Seward history to whet the appetite of the look to the past buff.

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Seward, Alaska

Kenai Fjords Then

Well, the then only starts twenty-three thousand years ago, and you can see that all over the place in the glacier ice that abounds around every fjord. They cover seven hundred square miles of the Kenai Mountains with a great example in the Harding Icefield. Yes, twenty-three thousand years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch, is where Kenai's history starts. Better have a good notebook to jot down that timeline. One date to jot down, 1867, when Secretary of State William H. Seward fought to acquire Alaska from Russia, and got a town named after him.

Seward and Mining History - The town of Seward is replete with history of Russian traders who had come to Alaska in 1784 to establish permanent settlements, the mining districts out in the Kenai fields and coastlines, plus the southern end of the Alaska Railroad that would take the ore to market. There's the history of the 1964 earthquake and the Exxon Valdez as well. Early settlers to the Seward area only dates back to 1884, and the town itself notes a 1903 beginning. That's when the railroads came. The officials of the railroad built their homes on Millionaires Row. Some, like the Ballaine House, Hale House, and Cameron House, still stand today.

Photo above: U.S.R.C. McCullough docked at Seward, Alaska, circa 1900-1927. Courtesy Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Photo below: Sunset along the Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai Fjords National Park. Courtesy National Park Service.

Kenai Fjords

Kenai Fjords National Park Now

Today, those twenty-three thousand year old natural features remain, to be visited, since 1980, in the national park of Kenai Fjords. You'll start your visit in Seward, a town of two thousand five hundred, but quickly spread out to the East Glacier area. There you can hike or just sightsee the natural features close to the nature center or the exhibits inside. For the rest of the park, a boat may be necessary. There are boat tours from Seward that show you the glaciers, coastline, and marine life that abounds.

Seward has history beyond the national park. There you can check out walking tours and museums such as the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

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Kenai Fjords Whale Watching

Kenai Fjords

Things You Should Not Miss

1. The Kenai Visitor Center is a must. There you can make plans for a boat trip, head on a ranger hike, and view the park film. This is harsh land and good orientation is a must.

2. Take in a Ranger Guided hike or talk. Whether these be along the Exit Glacier trail or in the park pavilion, information that these wonderful guides provide is a wonderful way to learn about the land and history of Kenai Fjords. These summer programs run from late May/June to early September. Do what you are able; some are strenuous and only suitable for experienced and fit hikers.

3. Take a boat tour. These are provided by several companies from the Seward dock. Some have park rangers accompanying the tour. These tours should be reserved in advance and are expensive. In 2017, the Adult price for some of the full day tours was $159. Half day tours can run in the area of $84 for adults and half price for children.

Photo above: Whales to watch on the Kenai Fjords boat trip. Courtesy National Park Service/Jim Pfeiffenberger.

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