Rivers of Ice in Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is famous for many reasons: abundant and charismatic local wildlife, spectacular coastal landscapes, and, of course, glaciers. The park is home to 38 glaciers fed by the massive Harding Icefield, a giant reservoir of ice perched high atop the Kenai Mountains.

At Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, a stay begins with a glacier cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park. Upon arrival, guests have the opportunity to explore along a glacier moraine, following a geological timeline of the developing coastal landscape to reach the terminus of Pedersen Glacier. For a truly unique perspective, those who wish to kayak may join a group paddle to the terminus of a tidewater glacier. Or, on a clear day one may simply relax in the main lodge or a rocking chair on the deck and enjoy the stunning view of Pedersen Glacier. For more information on the various ways guests may explore glaciers at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, please visit our Activities page.

A glacier is created when more snow falls than melts. As more snow accumulates over the years, the snow pack thickens and compresses, eventually reaching a point where the glacial ice has become nine times denser than the original snow. As the glacier grows more massive, it becomes increasingly affected by the forces of gravity, which pull the glacier downwards; this slow movement has earned glaciers the nickname "rivers of ice." Like a river, the glacier's flow can carve and reshape the landscape – often with dramatic results, such as the steep fjords within Kenai Fjords National Park.

While glacial ice always flows downward, a glacier may still be considered either 'advancing' or 'retreating' depending on snow accumulation, melting and calving. Calving is the term used to describe large chunks of glacier breaking off into the sea. When the loss of glacial ice from melting and calving exceeds the amount of new snow, the terminus of a glacier will retreat, exposing new waterways or churned earth known as a moraine. When there is an excess of snowfall, the glacial will advance forward. Many of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park are currently retreating, and the long-term fate of these awe-inspiring rivers of ice is not known.