Why we no longer run trips to Bear Glacier
These days you’ll hear a lot about Bear Glacier; a long and winding glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park that terminates in a lagoon about 15 miles south of Seward. It’s a beautiful location, with typically calm waters and incredibly large icebergs. So why don’t we offer any trips that operate there? That’s a great question, and a discussion we welcome!
First, a little history. We were one of the first operators running kayak trips in Bear Glacier Lagoon. Back in the 1990s, we were running float plane trips into Bear Glacier and using foldable kayaks to explore the area. In the early 2000s, we had a permitted cache in the lagoon where we could store kayaks and gear. At that point, we used a small water taxi to access the entrance and then hike into the cache. We’ve run many trips to Bear Glacier, and have a long history there. But two principles led us to pull out of Bear Glacier :
As times change, you need to change with them.
Listen to your customers.
Over time, Bear Glacier was “put on the map” and more people began visiting the area. One of the most wonderful, but also most dynamic, elements of the Bear Glacier area are the icebergs. They are huge and always changing. They are eye candy that lures people in, but the stunning still-life photos never show these icebergs breaking, cracking, rolling, or totally collapsing. They deserve the utmost respect, as in an instant their haunting beauty can transform into a serious hazard. As the area gained exposure, more unguided (and unfortunately ill-informed) travelers began renting pack rafts or kayaks and unknowingly exploring far too close to these massive bergs. More guided trips began operating in the lagoon, some advertising that you could touch or paddle through/under the ice. The quiet of the lagoon changed and became an environment with many uncontrolled factors at play, and one in which we did not feel comfortable bringing our guests.
We also listen to the feedback of the people we take paddling. We’ve consistently gotten better feedback from the Aialik area. The longer boat ride to Aialik Bay takes you through the exposed waters of the Gulf of Alaska, where there is a great chance of seeing humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, eagles, mountain goats, puffins and other sea birds, etc. Our boat captains do an incredible job of incorporating a wildlife tour into your journey to Aialik Bay. Very often, this is a highlight of the day for people. Bear Glacier lagoon simply does not offer that exposure to the ocean wildlife. Also, many people are eager to see that classic large tidewater glacier face, and hear the “white thunder” of it calving into the ocean before them. They want to experience the raw and powerful force of the ice carving through the mountains and dropping into the sea. Aialik provides this, and Bear Glacier does not (it’s not a tidewater glacier). Aialik Glacier is over a mile across at its face, and the most actively calving glacier in the national park. Often, chunks of ice float in the water with seals or sea otters hauled out on their surface. Although only a 2+ hour boat ride from Seward, Aialik Bay takes you worlds away and provides an incredible Alaskan adventure.
Just as we’ve chosen to focus solely on kayaking, and do one thing really well… we’ve also chosen to focus on the trips that we believe provide the best experience for our guests, like the Aialik Glacier Day Trip. Aialik is amazing and provides the complete Alaskan package (wildlife, tidewater glacier, full day of fun).
Please take a look at the website for our local Seward Paddling Association to learn more about ice safety, wildlife viewing, and things to consider before heading out. Before choosing an outfitter for your adventure, be sure to ask about their safety protocols, quality of gear, training, and risk management.