Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Get a look at America’s Last Frontier from a seasoned nature photographer who makes his home in Alaska
Chugach National Forest
Rather than driving straight back to Anchorage from Wrangell-St. Elias, Niebrugge suggests heading south away from the park on Alaska Route 4 to the town of Valdez and from there exploring the 5.5-million-acre Chugach National Forest that surrounds Prince William Sound. From Valdez, you take a ferry to the town of Whittier on the Kenai Peninsula.
“When you leave Whittier, you pass through a long tunnel into the Portage area surrounded by beautiful mountains and glaciers,” say Niebrugge. “As you drive south through the Chugach on the Seward Highway, the scenery is breathtaking, and there’s an abundance of moose and other wildlife, especially late in the evening.”
From here, you can either head back to Anchorage or continue down to Seward.
Kenai Fjords National Park
From the Chugach, the Seward Highway heading south will put you near the entrance to yet another Alaskan wonder: Kenai Fjords National Park, for some of the best glacier watching in Alaska. The park is just a 14-mile drive west of Seward, or about three hours south of Anchorage, if you prefer to start there.
“If you’ve never seen an ice field or a tidewater glacier before, it’s a pretty amazing thing to see,” says Niebrugge. “The best way to see the park is to take a day cruise from Seward. For $150, you can take a daylong cruise and see remarkable scenery and wildlife. They offer a less expensive half-day tour, but you won’t see whales nearly as often, you won’t get to the tidewater glaciers, and you won’t get to the puffins and the bird rookery.”
Most of the boats are able to get amazingly close to wildlife. “I’ve had orcas swim right up to the boat and seem to make eye contact,” he says. “Typically, you’ll see humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, sea otters and puffins.”
Perhaps the most amazing experience is getting close enough to a tidewater glacier to witness calving, the splitting off of the leading edge of the glacier.
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