Whittier to Kenai Fjords National Park

Our ship’s log showed that we berthed in Whittier at approximately midnight but we had a much more leisurely start to the day.  Our suitcases had been collected before we went to bed so all we had to do was dress, have breakfast and be ready to leave the ship with the rest of our tour group at 9.00am

We said goodbye to the Diamond Princess and the coach picked us up from the wharf and took us on a brief tour of the port of Whittier. It is overcast here, with low clouds and quite cool !!!!

Whittier, approximately 65 miles southeast of Anchorage, lies nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains bordering Passage Canal. Established as a World War II port for cargo and troops of the Alaska Command, Whittier remained activated until 1960. Today, Whittier’s economy and its 250 residents rely largely on the fishing industry, the port and, increasingly, on tourism.

The only way in and out of Whittier is via a one-way tunnel, which is 2 miles long and goes through the mountain. Every 15 minutes it changes direction – trains in, then trains out, then cars & buses in, then cars & buses out. Sometimes there is so much traffic wanting to use the tunnel that all the cars can’t get through in the time, so some of them have to wait an hour for their next turn.

We were surprised to see so much snow on the ground – apparently they have had a long winter with it snowing just over a week ago.  Most of the residents live in a multi-story building in the town, which has a small tunnel from its basement to the school next door so that the children can go to school every day in the winter.

After we left Whittier, we gravelled through “Bear Valley” and stopped at Lake Portage to view a glacier.  We continued along the Portage Valley to the Portage area and saw the trail of an avalanche that ended just beside the road.

In 1964 there was an earthquake and the underwater landslides caused a tsunami, which wiped out the whole village of Portage.

From there we were taken to a Conservation Centre, where injured and orphaned animals of all shapes and sizes are taken to be looked after, as well as the centre providing educational programs.  Most of the animals would die if they were living at the centre.

The Conservation Centre reminded us of Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo, because the animals, while restricted by fences, had large areas of land and trees to roam around as they pleased. We saw some grizzly bears, black bears, wood bison, caribou, muskoxen and a lynx (northern cat).

From there we entered the Kenai Fjords National Park, which is a United States National Park established in 1980.  The park covers an area of 2,711. square kilometres on the Kenai Peninsula in South Central Alaska, near the town of Seward.  The park contains the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States.  The park is named for the numerous fjords carved by glaciers moving down the mountains from the icefield, which is the source of at least 38 glaciers, the largest of which is Bear Glacier.

We continued down the Kenai Peninsula past Summit Lake, which was frozen – unusual for this time of year and onto the Seward Highway, where we saw two grizzly bears beside the road – they were a very light brownish colour – didn’t get a photo as they took off into the bush.

We arrived at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge at about 2.00pm.  We have a large cabin with its own little veranda and a log fireplace, which we have lit as it is quite cold here!

We had a late lunch at the restaurant in the lodge and then went for a walk down to the Kenai River and along its banks for a while before heading back up the steep hill to the lodge.  We sat out on the deck overlooking the river, chatting to some of our tour group.

We don’t have internet access in our room, so will need to go down to the lounge later on to post our blog and a few photos.


2 Responses to “Whittier to Kenai Fjords National Park”

  1. Janet says:

    Wow, your cabin is huge! Looks like fun sitting on the deck with the others 🙂 Dad, every time I see a photo of you in your beanie you look like a little gnome, it makes me smile 🙂 Whittier seems like a fascinating little village, with pretty much all the residents living in that one building and just one tunnel in and out. Can’t wait to do this trip one day with Adrian!

  2. Mick & Katie says:

    Hi Richard and Sandy,

    Katie and I leave for our tour of many of the places you have been next Saturday the 8th. Have found your daily posts thoroughly entertaining and informative. Can’t wait to expereince the sights ourselves.

    Cheers,

    Katie & Mick Keating

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