Images of blue, white and black ice drifting over blue gray water are the memories from the Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau Alaska. Part of the Juneau Icefields, in the Coast Mountain Range, North America’s fifth largest icefield blankets over 1,500 square miles of land. About 85 miles north to south and 45 miles east to west, the Juneau Icefield feeds 38 large glaciers. Interestingly, the ice can be from 800 feet to 4, 500 feet deep! No wonder it was so cold at the Mendenhall Glacier Park.
Some of the Glaciers in the Juneau Ice Field are retreating while others are stable or advancing. Even in retreat, the glaciers will be evident for several centuries. The rock that is revealed when the glaciers retreat, begin to support life quickly. The first plant life that forms on the bare rocks are moss and lichens. Lupine, Alder, Cottonwoods and willows followed by Spruce and Hemlock eventually create the forest we see furthest from the face of the Glaciers. This reclamation process takes about 350 years!
So as you visit the Temperate Rainforest of Southeast Alaska, appreciate the time it has taken to even being to see tall trees in the area. Also appreciate how quickly a logging crew can destroy this delicate environment. Protection is necessary since this environment is the home to fragile wildlife along with being part of the climate stabilizers of the world. Visit the Alaska Wilderness League for more information.