More of Kenai Fjords National Park

Viewfinder 5The rain that began on the afternoon of our last cruise intensified and continued for two more days. During those days, we moved from our inland campground to the water. The ocean is my favorite place in the whole world and with a view framed by snow-capped mountains, it is beautiful rain or shine. And we extended our stay in Seward so we could see more of Kenai Fjords National Park.Viewfinder 7

We stayed in the Resurrection South RV Parking section of the Waterfront Campground (City of Seward). Read my review of the campground here.Viewfinder 4Viewfinder 6

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Finally on the third day, the rain stopped. So we went on a short hike to Exit Glacier by the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center. We joined a ranger-led walk to the glacier.Viewfinder 12Viewfinder 14Viewfinder 16Viewfinder 9

The Harding Icefield receives an average of sixty feet of snowfall every winter. With cool and wet summers, the snow never has a chance to fully melt before winter. The Icefield feeds about 38 glaciers in the park.

As snow on the yet to be formed glaciers is accumulated, air gets compressed out. Over time, the snow becomes nine times denser than ordinary snow, and gravity causes it to flow. Glaciers advance, but also retreat when the weather warms. This process creates valleys and fjords and reshapes the landscape.

Viewfinder 13Viewfinder 10There are five types of glaciers: valley, piedmont, tidewater, cirque and hanging. Exit Glacier is a valley glacier.

Viewfinder 17Viewfinder 11Viewfinder 3The glacier has retreated considerably in the last 100 years, and markers along the way designate the various points that it reached during the different decades. Today, it is roped off from the public as it is unstable, but the trail gets pretty close to it at the end. This was a nice easy hike and very informative.

Viewfinder 18Viewfinder 19Viewfinder 20On a beautiful, cloudless day, we set out on the Viewfinder, owned by Major Marine Tours, and at 58 feet long, the smallest of the boats used by either of the two big wildlife/glacier cruise operators in town. She had been sold out earlier in the week, but we stayed extra days specifically to go out on this smaller boat.

Not surprisingly, as we crossed in front of our oceanfront campground on our way out, we saw more sea otters.

Smiley otter

Smiley otter

Viewfinder 23And passed by Bear Glacier once again.

Viewfinder 24Viewfinder 22Viewfinder 25As we cruised by some Dall’s porpoises, the boat slowed down to see if they would “play” in the bow, but they were not in a playful mood.Viewfinder 40

Viewfinder 37Viewfinder 36Next was Cape Aialik. Although we had cruised through this same area days before, each visit is different. And this sunny day the mountains and the glaciers were glowing.

Viewfinder 26Viewfinder 87We spotted puffins once again, we never get tired of them. Puffins bodies are adapted to diving, they dive very deep, and “fly” underwater. But they are not very good at flying and their takeoffs from and landings into the water are hilariously awkward.

Viewfinder 27Viewfinder 35Then we saw orcas ahead, in fact one of the orcas breached. We were surrounded by pods of orcas with some ahead of us in front of a fishing boat. It was the most orcas we have seen on these trips.

Looks like a sea monster ...

Looks like a sea monster …

But really it was 5 orcas

But really it was 5 orcas

Viewfinder 28These were resident orcas, who stay within a particular area and form family groups. These whales normally do not eat small mammals such as seals, but instead feed on salmon. They are matriarchal, and whales stay with their mothers their entire lives. Yet they know not to breed within their pod.Viewfinder 33

Viewfinder 34We saw other resident orcas down in Vancouver Island last year, where they are the subjects of extensive research. They are absolutely fascinating.

Viewfinder 32On this day, we spotted various males with the straight, longer dorsal fins, females with shorter curved fins, and various youngsters. It was wonderful.

Viewfinder 39Next we went to the Chiswell Islands, where we had an intimate encounter with a humpback whale who was swimming right by a rock formation and feeding. She would swim one way, then the other, never diving but staying close to the surface. We were right next to her, but only saw her blow and her head and back as she rose to breathe.Viewfinder 38

Viewfinder 42There were puffins and seabirds all around.  A magical moment.

Hector was hoping to have the whale surface next to a puffin, maybe next time.

Viewfinder 46Viewfinder 47Entering Harris Bay and Northwestern Fjord we had a totally different view of all of the glaciers here. There are eight total glaciers in the Fjord, and we spent the majority of our time in front of the Northwestern Glacier.

Viewfinder 43Viewfinder 49Viewfinder 50Viewfinder 54This time the bright sun shone on the icebergs, most with harbor seals on top. They were so beautiful with their big, soulful eyes. The harbor seals use the icebergs to rest and to give birth.Viewfinder 53

Viewfinder 52Viewfinder 55When up on the icebergs they are safer from marine predators, a good thing since they are a favorite morsel for transient orcas (different from the resident orcas).

Viewfinder 60The gulls were also using the glaciers as resting spots.Viewfinder 59Viewfinder 57Viewfinder 61Viewfinder 64

Viewfinder 63Viewfinder 71Viewfinder 65Viewfinder 51Northwestern Glacier is an active tidewater glacier, meaning that it touches the water and is calving. Although it was not calving very much on this day, it was still an impressive sight, especially against the bright blue sky.Viewfinder 62

Viewfinder 69Viewfinder 70We briefly visited two other glaciers in the Northwestern Fjord; Anchor and Ojive, both also active tidewater glaciers. But not much action from either of those.

Viewfinder 68Viewfinder 67Viewfinder 77Viewfinder 79On our way out of the fjord we made a brief visit to Cataract Cove where we saw a raft of sea otters including a mama with a baby (pup)!

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Returning to the Chiswell Islands, we saw one last humpback making a deep dive and giving us a final wave goodbye with her tail before disappearing into the sea.Viewfinder 89Viewfinder 90Viewfinder 91

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Viewfinder 92As always, there are lots of seabirds around the islands, and we found more puffins and black-legged kittiwakes. The kittiwakes had fluffy babies (chicks) and we got a pretty close look at some of them. Love those babies!

Passing in front of Bear Glacier on our return, we hit high winds coming off the glacier that created big swells and wind chop in the water. Yet one more weather factor to consider when taking a boat tour of the area.  We did enjoy a rainbow that followed us for a long time in the bow spray.Viewfinder 99

Viewfinder 73We really enjoyed our experience on the Viewfinder. The smaller boat makes for a more intimate experience, and, with a deck that goes all around the boat, makes it easier for all to get good views of the wildlife.

Viewfinder 74Viewfinder 1Viewfinder 2We had wanted to return to Seward since we went whale-watching there eight years ago. And we are so glad that we did. And glad that we hung around for a bit.

We enjoyed all of our boat tours, each providing a totally different experience on the water and with the wildlife. But it was time to leave Seward and move on to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula.

~ BrendaViewfinder 84

16 thoughts on “More of Kenai Fjords National Park

  1. Looks like it was just the best day for your small boat ride. Glad you had a chance to make the trip in the sun. Just beautiful. K

    • It was a clear, beautiful day. We have had about a week’s worth of true sunny days this whole time. Most times it’s partly/mostly cloudy. But it’s so beautiful here, it doesn’t matter (except for photos). Hugs to both of you!

  2. Brenda,
    I love Alaska and hope we can take our RV there one year. Your pictures and documentation are wonderful reminders of what we hope to do soon. We have and older RV and have some issues with it being able to make the trip but I have been reading your blog and the roads don’t seem to be as bad as I’ve heard.

    • You know they really aren’t, especially if you take it nice and slow, which we did. We have had damage to both of our windshields,but I think we could have protected our car windshield better – will post about some things “we should have done” at the end of all of this.

  3. This was certainly well worth the extra days! What a photographers dream with the beautiful glaciers and the amazing wildfife! Thanks for so many photos, I really enjoyed them. I can tell it is cold because Hector has pants on:)

    • Oh, yes, it did cut our time in Homer short (next posts), but you have to prioritize sometimes since you can’t see it all. You are too funny, he is back to shorts now 🙂

  4. All the photos are of course beautiful and the scenery stunning, but I’m enamored with those Puffins. I think I would drive to Alaska just to capture a few shots of those adorable birds.

    • Thanks, Ingrid. The only shame is that the cruises are in the middle of the day, so it is not the best light. It would have been amazing to go out really early or really late – hmmm, maybe we could start a new business. The puffins are just so adorable, but we never saw babies – I read that is how they get their name because they are puffballs when they are born – OMG, I don’t know if I could handle it. btw, there are some puffins at Haystack Rock in Oregon during part of the summer (don’t remember when), but they are way up on the rock, so can be tough to even see.

  5. Like all the pictures and the descriptions but let’s start a photo rumor with the “Sea Monster” pic. Great picture. I would buy it!!!! Start a post!

  6. This was my favorite tour! Thank you for reliving it for me, It is so magical! And this is your third tour, wow!
    It must really be cold for you guys are really bundled up.
    So glad the rain stopped for you for a quick visit at Exit Glacier. We brought our umbrellas just so we can get hike there.

    • I get extra bundled up since I’m a tropical girl, but it gets cold out on the water by those glaciers, even if the day isn’t so cold. You are so funny taking umbrellas to a hike 🙂

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