Mendenhall Glacier

Waterfall at Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Make sure your trip takes you to the magnificent site of the Mendenhall Glacier. This is an incredibly accessible glacier, and you will be able to see this up close, along with huge ice-blocks that float in the sea.

The other great reason to come here is to see the black bears. They are not afraid of tourists and it's possible to see them quite closely - but they are wild bears and dangerous so you will be protected by fenced walkways.

Ursus Americanus are omnivores, but their diet is almost all vegetable. At Steep Creek by the mendenhall Glacier the bears have become quite accustomed to humans, and this is perhaps one of the best places to see them up close. Strong walkways have been built above the lowlands where the bears roam, and you are free (yes, there is no charge) to walk along and see and photograph them.

In the early 1900s the glacier covered most of this area, but it has been fast retreating and by 1940 it had moved back far enough to expose the area that is now known as Steep Creek. Brown bears began to populate the area but over time these were hunted out and today the black bears are most common here - much better adjusted to living near to humans.

Some bear facts

Nowadays bears can be habituated, non-habituated or food-conditioned.

Habituated bears (like the ones here at Steep Creek) don't see humans as threatening and so are much less reactive to us, and consequently are less dangerous.

Non-habituated bears are shy and fearful of humans. They are therefore more dangerous and more aggressive if crowded, but give them lots of space and there will be no problem.

Food-conditioned bears have learned to seek food from humans, and so are even less fearful of humans and can be much more aggressive. They have been known to enter homes, and are frequently killed. So don't feed them!

To the right of the glacier is the wonderful Nugget Falls. Zoom in to our picture and you will see a small group of people at the foot of, and to the right of the waterfall - that will give you a very good idea of the scale of this 'fall. From the visitor centre take a walk along the beach to this waterfall. If you are a fast walker this will take you 45 minutes. It involves a walk down steps and along some rough ground to the beach, so this is not something for everyone.

In the sea you can see the huge ice blocks that are just floating, and yes they do have a slightly blue tinge. This will just prepare you for the even more magnificent Hubbard Glacier - see the next page.

Mendenhall Bear Mendenhall Visitor Centre Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

The Hubbard Glacier is almost unique amongst glaciers. Since 1900 this glacier has been advancing - demonstrating immunity to climate change. On two occasions (1986 and 2002) its ice-front blocked the mouth of the Russell Fjord. The dammed river was cleared in a cascading explosion known as a jokulhlaup but scientists expect this to occur again and again. More...