The great state of Alaska is packed with endless things to do and sights to see.
Preserved as a National Monument, Glacier Bay exists as an extraordinary collection of glaciers in a contained region. Only two ships per day are permitted to enter the bay during the summer months, which is when whales come here to feed. Hundreds of years ago, the ice in Glacier Bay fell as snow on the icefields in the mountains above.
Compressed by its own tremendous weight, the ice slowly flows through valleys to the sea, where in some cases, it breaks off in great chunks, called "calves", to float free as icebergs and "bergy bits".
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At over 90 miles in length, 300 feet in height and six miles across, the gigantic Hubbard Glacier is doubtlessly one of nature's wonders. Existing as the largest glacier in North America, it is also known as the "Galloping Glacier" because of the fact that it once advanced so far in a single day, it dammed Russell Fjord. This followed with the formation of a lake behind the dam that climbed to levels of 90 feet above sea level. Although the dam no longer exists, Hubbard Glacier still flows rather quickly and maintains the deep blue color that distinguishes it as being active glacial ice. Beginning its journey from Mount Logan, Canada's highest mountain, the place where Hubbard Glacier empties into the sea is called Disenchantment Bay.
Though not as well known as Glacier Bay, it is at least as spectacular if not more so. Located in the Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier rates as one of Alaska's most massive glaciers. As you get nearer the glacier, you see a massive white formation that seems almost as big as the mountains that surround it. This is Sawyer Glacier, wedged at the end of Tracy Arm, an iridescent blue mass of centuries-old ice. As you gaze upon it in wonder a loud cracking noise that seems to split the very air, heralds the calving of a massive chunk of ice the size of a building. As it enters the sea, a gigantic spray of water causes rippling waves of water to rock the ship.
Stunningly beautiful and rich in wildlife, Denali National Park consists of six million acres of coniferous forest and open tundra. Looming high above the valleys is the 20,320 ft. Mount McKinley, commonly known as Denali, meaning literally, "The High One". It is the highest peak in North America. If you are fortunate enough to be there on a clear day, you can expect to see Dall sheep high on the hillsides and grizzlies fishing for salmon in the icy-cold streams of the park.
The "Great Land" of Alaska has over 47 State and National Parks that offer excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, with Denali National Park offering the greatest variety of species. Just a few of the more common mammals are Brown or Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Dall Sheep, Moose and Caribou. Soaring above you will be Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and Steller Sea Eagles. Some of the smaller birds include puffins, loons and ptarmigan. Within the sea you will find splashing Orca (Killer) whales, Humpback whales, Beluga whales and Bowhead whales, not to mention sea lions and playful otters.
The Inside Passage stretched from Puget Sound in Washington State all the way to Skagway Alaska over 1,000 miles, making it the longest protected inland waterway in the world. Carved by glaciers and blanketed with majestic hemlock and spruce, Alaska's Inside Passage is a region of pristine water, snow capped mountains, deep fjords and forested islands. In the spring, the passage is blanketed with wildflowers and the whales are migrating. Come fall, the landscape is ablaze with fall foliage and the bald eagles are gathering.
There is no sole Alaska Native culture. Many different indigenous societies call Alaska home. There are seven broad culture groups and over 90 different native ancestral languages spoken from the two major language families, the Eskimo-Aleut and Athabaskan. The many native cultures can be seen in the various totem poles and beautiful traditional long houses that line the Alaskan shore. With storytelling, song, dance and art, the Native peoples of Alaska have passed their history from one generation to another.