With our flight over Glacier Bay, we completed our tour of all eight National Parks in Alaska. What a tour it was. Each Park unique, each Park a National treasure. Getting to each presented a few challenges with finding guides or outfitters, the weather and how best to see the park. We also have Sam. National Parks are NOT dog friendly. You can’t take them on trails. Not that we’d want to take our bear snack food pet on any Alaskan Park trail. Often this means only one of us can make the journey. Fortunately, this only happened in the arctic and Wrangell-St. Elias. So, I missed a copper mine littered with trash and Lillian missed the frozen tundra. Not bad. Not bad at all.
A piece of history I missed, and you most likely missed as well, was the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This landmark legislation was signed into law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. Why mention it you ask? Because this single piece of Law created or expanded ALL the National Parks in Alaska. It was accomplished by a lame duck Congress and lame duck President. In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Alaskan Republican Senators and the outgoing Democrats pushed this through. If you are a National Parks’ fan, this Act was huge. Figuratively and literally. The Act provided varying degrees of special protection to over 157,000,000 acres of land, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, recreational areas, national forests, and conservation areas. It was, the single largest expansion of protected lands in history and more than doubled the size of the National Park System.
The Act created or expanded and protected the following:
• Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
• Admiralty Island National Monument
• Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
• Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
• Cape Krusenstern National Monument
• Denali National Park
• Gates Of The Arctic National Park and Preserve
• Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
• Katmai National Park and Preserve
• Kenai Fjords National Park
• Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
• Kobuk Valley National Park
• Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
• Misty Fjords National Monument
• Noatak National Preserve
• Wrangell – St Elias National Park and Preserve
• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
• Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
• Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Once again, there are no roads to Glacier Bay. The Visitor Center is not even in the Park. Lots of people visit Glacier Bay, however. It is a major attraction of the many cruise ships traveling up the Canada – Alaska coastline. We saw it by air. John Muir visited the Park, but he had to walk. He’s got a Glacier named after him as does Wilber and Orville. In total, Glacier Bay is home to over 1,000 tidewater and terrestrial glaciers
Our two-hour tour was conducted by our Pilot Paul. Paul and his wife Amy own Mountain Air Service. They’ve been conducting flight tours from Haines and Skagway to Glacier Bay since 1992. Their beautifully restored de Havilland was built in 1957. Paul didn’t like the flight characteristics, so he removed the wings and reattached them. The plane was in immaculate condition and Paul’s attention to detail superb. I’m glad Paul didn’t select a plane built in 1956. That would have made it a classic, — just like me.