Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve consists of 16 tidewater glaciers spilling out of the mountains and filling the sea with icebergs of all shapes, sizes and shades of blue; an icy wilderness renowned throughout the world. The park is serviced by a small settlement called Gustavus, an interesting backcountry community. Among the citizens of Gustavus is a mixture of professional people including doctors, lawyers, former government workers and artists, who have decided to drop out of the city rat race and live on their own in the middle of the wilderness.
There is no ‘town center’ in Gustavus. The town is merely an airstrip left over from WWII and a road to Bartlett Cove, officially called Main Road or Park Road, but known to most as “The Road.” Every other road and dirt path in the area is referred to as “The Other Road,” regardless of which one is being referenced. The heart of Gustavus is the bridge over the Salmon River. Near it is Salmon River Park, the Gustavus Inn and the only grocery store in the area.
Bartlett Cove is the park headquarters and includes the Glacier Bay Lodge, a restaurant, a visitor center, a campground and the main dock where the tour boats depart for excursions up the bay. The cove lies within the Glacier Bay Park but is still 40 miles south of the nearest glacier. At the foot of the dock is the park’s visitor center where you can obtain backcountry permits, seek out information or purchase a variety of books or topographic maps that cover the park.
Bartlett Cove is the base for Forest Trail, a mile-long nature walk that winds through the pond-studded spruce and hemlock forest. Bartlett River Trail is a 1.5-mile trail that meanders along a tidal lagoon and passes through a few wet spots. Point Gustavus Beach Walk along the shoreline south of Bartlett Cove provides the only overnight trek at 12 miles. Point Gustavus, halfway in between is an excellent place to sight killer whales in Icy Strait.
Glacier Bay offers an excellent opportunity for people who have experience on the water but not necessarily as kayakers. Enjoy the well-protected arms and inlets where the glaciers are located on your own or with a guided kayaking tour.
Location: Gustavus lies on the north shore of Icy Passage at the mouth of the Salmon River, 48 air miles northwest of Juneau in the St. Elias Mountains. It is surrounded by Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve on three sides and the waters of Icy Passage on the south.
Access: Scheduled jet service from Juneau, charter air service, tour boat service out of Juneau.
Accommodations: 3 lodges; several bed and breakfasts; one campground; several restaurants.
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