A Visit to Kenai Fjords National Park
I have a goal of visiting all 50 states and am just over halfway there. Every year, I try to visit one or two new ones and when 2022 rolled around I wasn’t sure which one I’d hit. Much to my surprise it turned out to be Alaska. I had thought Alaska would be one of the last ones I’d visit since it’s quite far, but an opportunity arose for a weekend trip and I quickly took advantage of it. Since another goal of mine is to visit as many national parks as possible, I decided to squeeze one in and made an excursion to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Alaska is home to 8 national parks so I had a lot to choose from…or so it seemed. Right off the bat Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley were off the list because they were too remote. Then, Wrangler St. Elias and Glacier Bay dropped off because they were too far from where I was staying in Anchorage. That still left 4 options and I was really hoping for Denali but I was visiting just before the summer season. In California, that hardly matters, but in Alaska it means a lot of park closures and limited transportation options so there went Lake Charles, Katmai and, sadly, Denali. I had one last option, Kenai Fjords, and I was determined to make it happen.
As determined as I was, it still wasn’t easy to put together. The park is 2 hours south of Anchorage near the town of Seward. Only a tiny portion is accessible via land and, during my visit, the area was still closed for the season. That left me with one option, a boat tour, but, since I was visiting during the off season, most tour boats weren’t operating. Then, I came across Seward Ocean Excursions and, suddenly, my dream of visiting an Alaskan national park became a reality.
I rented a car in Anchorage and made the 2 hour drive along the Seward Highway. It’s a beautiful route and I saw magnificent views of the Turnagain Arm and Chugach mountains along the way before arriving in the quaint town of Seward. Seward is nestled on Resurrection Bay and the picturesque waterway is an extremely popular place to take a boat tour. Most of the tour boats hold over 100 passengers but Seward Ocean Excursions offers a more intimate experience with a 6 person max.
Once all members of our small group arrived we were off to explore the waters of Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. During peak season, the bay is littered with fishing and tour boats but we practically had the whole place to ourselves. Except for the bald eagles. And sea lions. And mountain goats. And harbor seals. And sea otters. And humpback whales.
Here’s the thing. Back in California I took two different whale watching excursions where I saw zero whales and I was beginning to think I was a jinx. About 10 minutes into Resurrection Bay we saw our first whale and they just kept on coming. Because our boat was so small and quiet and there was hardly anyone on the water, the whales were totally comfortable enjoying their day in the bay. They were feeding and breaching and it was so awesome to see them. I guess I’m not a jinx after all.
We continued exploring the bay encountering lots more wildlife, viewing the remains of WWII era Fort McGilvray, catching a glimpse of lonely Rugged Island and dipping our toe in the Gulf of Alaska where the ocean seemed to go on forever.
At this point we turned back into the bay to head for our final stop, Bear Glacier.
I was really hoping to see a glacier while in Alaska so I was super excited Bear Glacier was included in the tour. Because it faces the gulf the area around it is extremely windy and we could not get too close but it was still a sight to see due to its massive size. It was also fascinating to know that the little icebergs dotting the water in front of it were actually the size of large buildings!
Touring the waters of Kenai Fjords was an amazing experience which allowed me to cross several items off my Alaskan wish list. I visited a national park, I saw a ton of wildlife (including whales!) and glimpsed a glacier. What a trip!
A few times in my life I’ve visited places that were so unbelievably beautiful that I could hardly believe they were real. Just looking across the waters of Resurrection Bay into the landscape of Kenai Fjords made me pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was so stunning that it took my breath away. Though my visit to Alaska was brief it was such an incredible experience that I can’t wait to return. Hopefully, next time I can visit another national park and continue to explore the wonders of the state.