Only a few miles outside of Alaska’s capital (on the only road out of town) is the blue-white icy travel wonder of Mendenhall Glacier. As a poster-child for global warming, this river of ice has receded almost three kilometres in just fifty years, creating Mendenhall Lake at the front of the glacier. Slowly bulldozing its way down the valley, creaking and groaning, it’s beauty among the trees and lake, masks its sharp decline. Smaller bergs having carved off the main glacier float serenely in the lake.

The area includes a number of excellent short walks where salmon, glistening red in the icy pure waters, struggle their last distance upstream to their spawning grounds. In one of nature’s great mysteries, salmon return from the oceans to where they were hatched for their first and only time (science cannot explain this extraordinary feat of memory) laying or fertilising eggs, before dying. They also survive the transition from fresh to salt water, living their entire lives in the open ocean except for birth and reproduction.

If you are fortunate, you may see a black bear or two feverishly hunting the water to prey upon the salmon thrashing their way through the shallow stream beds. The bears’ skills vary dramatically, some able to comfortably pocket a salmon with a simple strike of a paw while others awkwardly pounce in almost comic attempts to satisfy their boundless hunger. Excited whispers ripple through the gathered walkers as they eagerly view the frenzied feeding as the lumbering black bears continue to fill their stomachs in readiness for the pending winter slumber.

While Juneau is a picturesque and petite capital packed with government buildings, its highlight is undoubtedly the Mendenhall Glacier. After all, not many cities can boast a neighbouring glacier in its list of things to see.

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5 Responses to The Receding River of Ice (Juneau, Alaska, USA)

  • jessiev says:

    WOW!! such gorgeous photos. the air seems so crystal clear up there, doesn't it?

  • Anil says:

    The US govt. just released some previously classified photos of the receding ice in Alaska. The changes are quite dramatic.

    I hope these signs are enough to convince more people to be less wasteful and put pressure on their governments to take the problem seriously.

  • Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") says:

    Camping beside Mendenhall is one of my favorite Alaska memories. ~As well as the swimming salmon and hungry grizzlies and… I think I need to go back!

  • Lifecruiser Travel Blog says:

    Awesome post with gorgeous photos. Alaska. Exotic place, different destination. I've never been there and I doubt I will, so this was instead :-)

  • Mark H says:

    @jessiev: The air does feel fresh and clean.

    @anil: Good point. I hope so too.

    @heather: Camping nearby would have been special.

    @lifecruiser: Thank you.

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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