Mendenhall Glacier

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The Mendenhall Glacier is part of the larger Juneau Icefield, the fifth largest icefield in North America. The glacier itself extends back almost 14 miles from Mendenhall Lake, which began to form in 1931 from glacier retreat and runoff.

It is a popular tourist excursion located a short drive north of the Juneau International Airport, with close to 500,000 people visiting annually, many from inside passage cruises docking in Juneau.

The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is the hub from which to explore the area. Except for a $3 admission fee to view exhibits and media presentations, the Center's facilities and trails are free.

There are a number of easy and accessible trails covering the park, some of which offer salmon and bear-viewing opportunities. They include Photo Point Trail, Steep Creek Trail, East Glacier Loop and Trail of Time. The Nugget Falls Trail is a 0.8 mile trail leading right up to Nugget Falls (see photo).

Mendenhall Glacier Facts

Even though the glacier has retreated 1.75 miles (2.82 km) since 1958, ten years of heavy snowfall in the area has actually caused a slight advance.

The original name used by the Tlingit was Sitaantaagu ("the Glacier Behind the Town"). It wasn't until 1891 the glacier was renamed after Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, an American physicist and meteorologist known for his advocacy of the metric system in the U.S.

Mendenhall Lake began to form in the 1930s due to recession and subsequent run-off from the glacier. It's developed it's own unique ecosystem including a salmon and trout population that is a sport-fishing favorite.

While glacier recession is generally considered a negative process, one benefit for scientists has been the unveiling of some historical insight of the ecology for the last 2500 years.

The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was expanded and renovated in 1999 and is operated by the United States Forest Service as part of the Tongass National Forest. The Center provides picturesque views of the lake and glacier, and runs interpretive programs for all ages throughout the year.  

   

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