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View Glaciers, Icebergs and Sea Ice


Moulin on Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier

What is a glacier?
Glaciers are slow moving bodies of ice that form from the mass compression of snow over hundreds of years. Physically, glaciers behave very similar to rivers, which is why glaciers are often termed "rivers of ice." As glaciers advance, they engulf everything in their path, grind it up, forming glacial silt at the toe of the glacier. Many valley's and lakes have been carved out by glaciers around the world; including parts of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

How are glaciers formed?
When snow accumulates in the same location, year after year, glaciers tend to form and advance. These areas are generally at higher altitudes because temperatures need to remain cool, so snow is less likely to melt. As the snow accrues, it compresses, which forces the snow to re-crystallizes into ice forming glaciers.

Types of Alaskan Glaciers
The most common type of glaciers found in Alaska are mountain glaciers, due to our numerous mountain ranges. Other types of glaciers are piedmont, hanging and tidewater glaciers.


Citizen Science in the Wilderness: Glaciology

Note: This Embedded video resides on the official Denali National Park YouTube channel

A glacier near Valdez
Aric Hudson
Glacier near Valdez

Glaciers in Alaska

There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, covering 4.5% of the state - that's 29 thousand square miles. The Malaspina Glacier in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve covers about 850 square miles, which is almost the same size as the state of Rhode Island.

There are quite a few glaciers that are very accessible within the state, and even a few that you can walk on and see up close. Go to to see an overview of the easiest accessible glaciers to see while in the state of Alaska.

Climate Change

Whatever the cause may be, no one doubts that the world is warming up. Glaciers are a first-class indicator, because many are receding faster than ever before. Explore this phenomenon with the United States Geological Survey and their website on glaciers and climate change at


Amount of Old Ice in the Arctic, 1987-2013

Note: This Embedded video resides on the official NOAA Climate YouTube channel

A bald eagle in flight Did You Know?
The largest concentration of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in North America occurs during the fall and winter along the Chilkat River, in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where up to 3,000 eagles congregate to feed on salmon.