Far off the beaten track and away from the cruise ships lies North America’s southernmost tidal glacier. Named after conservationist Joseph LeConte, a friend of John Muir, the glacier carved a twelve mile long winding fjord jammed with floating bergs and surrounded by steep spruce-covered mountains and nearly vertical 4,000-foot granite cliffs. Our aluminum hulled 29’ Almar cabin cruiser gracefully navigates through the ice and immerses you in this life-affirming natural wonder.
Waterfalls gushing over 3,000 feet down make for the perfect selfie backdrop and a particularly spectacular confluence of three waterfalls creates the float stop to enjoy while your guide serves you a gourmet lunch or wine and cheese. You might choose to sip on an Alaskan Sno-Cone or a true Alaskan Martini chilled with chunks of ice you break off of the floes. Hanging glaciers terminating thousands of feet above you are the first glimpse of the wonderland around the corner.
You won’t forget the mesmerizing sounds echoing through the fjord. Thunderclaps of calving ice punctuate the ever-present crackling of air pockets escaping from ice that has been trapped in the massive fields above you for centuries. Thousands of seals and their pups harboring on floating ice provide constant entertainment as newborns are nursed away from the attentions of orcas and other predators.
The majesty and magnitude of the landscape will strike you as well. LeConte Glacier is a frozen river of ice flowing out of the 120-mile Stikine Icefield at a speed of almost 90 feet per day. It constantly advances in winter and retreats in summer, with the retreat being marked by large chunks of ice falling off, or calving from, the face. Because of the bay’s depth, ice separating below the waterline erupts through the surface as spectacular “shooter ice”. The net daily distance that the Glacier advances or retreats depends on how much ice it sheds as a counter to the forward momentum. Every year the seniors at nearby Petersburg High School monitor the positioning of the glacier face. It was stable for the decade or so at the beginning of this century, though they have recorded more than two and a half miles of retreat since they began measuring in the mid-1980s. It has resumed retreating in recent years.
At its face, LeConte Glacier towers nearlytwo hunderd feet above the tidewater and drops another five hundredfeet below. The mile-wide glacier face cascading out of the mountains and into the sea steals the show. But spectacular valleys and peaks that frame the performance would take the lead almost anywhere else on earth. Sea kayaking among the giant “Boxcar” ice floes is an option for the more intrepid adventures while others might request for us to arrange a chartered floatplane to take them on an awe-inspiring tour of the LeConte Icefields and its surrounding mountains from above. The floatplane add-on requires an extra charge.
The glacier excursion is an all-day journey of water and ice. Between the lodge and the fjord, you will cruise through the Wrangell Narrows, a 22 mile long nautical masterwork, and spot a plethora of marine and wildlife against the stunning scenery of the Inside Passage. The trip can include a tour of Petersburg, a rugged fishing village nestled on an island in the shade of the 10,000 foot tall coastal mountains. Founded over one hundred years ago and known as “Little Norway,” Petersburg processes over one hundred million pounds of commercial fish a year. The docks and streets are bustling during the summer with fisherman, more than 500 commercial fishing vessels, yachts, small cruise ships, locals and seasonal cannery workers.