NASBLA Public Library

Navigability on Glacial Lakes 

02-03-2021 02:15 PM

The Mendenhall Glacier (also known as Sitaantaagu) is a beautiful and easily viewable ice face located approximately twelve miles northwest of Downtown Juneau and four and a half miles north of Juneau International Airport, respectively. Its proximity to the road system makes it a convenient option for visitors who have never seen a glacier and those hoping for a glimpse of it tour the aptly named Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which received 700,000 visitors in 2017. The glacier is prominently featured on many local postcards and most visitors do not consider a trip to Juneau complete until they take a selfie in front of it. A physically fit and adventurous person with more than six hours to burn and a willingness to hike and climb rocky terrain can even touch it.

The majority of the glacier’s visitors arrive via cruise ships in Downtown Juneau. Then they are bused to the visitor center where they spend a limited time before their ship departs, making hiking to the glacier a risky proposition. As the glacier continues to recede, both visual and physical access to it will become more challenging. Unfortunately, as global temperatures continue to increase, the glacier has been steadily receding for over a hundred years due to surface melt and calving where masses of ice shed and form icebergs. According to the United States Forest Service, with the glacier receding at its current rate, visitors will no longer be able to see its terminus from the visitor center by 2050.

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