The Mendenhall Glacier is an unbelievably beautiful place in white and blue, where water just run over rocks under blue ceilings inside a partly hollow glacier. The glacier is best observed on overcast days while it is closed for the entire month of April and Federal holidays. The glacier is always moving, flowing easily like a river while shaping the landscape as it moves. It is situated about 12 miles from downtown Juneau and is one of the gorgeous glaciers readily available to various visitors. There is a river of ice which flows for twelve miles from the Juneau Icefield down to Mendenhall Lake. It was named after Thomas Corwin Mendenhall in 1891, but earlier had different names like Auke Glacier, Akk Wtaaksit, and Sitaantaagu.
Even there are several adverse effects of the recession of the Mendenhall Glacier and glaciers in general; there are also some positive impacts from it as well. With the retreat of Mendenhall Glacier, Mendenhall Lake has formed. The lake is developed as a result of the run-off from the glacier and is always increasing in size as the glacier keeps on to retreat. The lake was formed in 1931 and has continued to increase since then. The lake has its unique ecosystem and is a famous location for sports fishing; enthusiastic fishers can find trout and salmon in the lake.
The retreat of Mendenhall Glacier and any other glaciers in the region is believed by some to be a result of larger retreat and break-up of the Juneau Icefield. The Juneau Icefield is the 5th biggest Icefield in North America. For several populations close to the glacial areas these glaciers are their source of fresh drinking water. Once these glaciers disappear the people relying on this fresh water will lose their familiar fresh water source. For instance, Anchorage is one of the highly populated cities in Alaska and several people in this city depend on the Eklutna glacier to fetch fresh water. If the recession of this glacier goes on, they will be out of their major source of water. Nonetheless, Alaska has been receiving record snowfall in the previous decade. Snow is the major factor which causes glaciers to advance.
Interesting Facts About the Mendenhall Glacier:
- The glacier is nearly 19km (12miles) long, located in the Mendenhall Valley. It is twelve miles from downtown Juneau in the southeast of the United States, State of Alaska.
- The glacier and its surrounding are strictly protected as the 5,815 acre Mendenhall Glacier Recreational Area. This is a federally designated entity of the Tongass National Forest.
- Mendenhall Lake often fronts the glacier at the terminus, and the ice extends nearly 150-250 feet under the water. The Lake is used for top ice skating during the winter as it is covered with thick ice.
- It is first formed in the Juneau Icefield that is more than 3,000 years old. It is one of the 38 glaciers that flows down the Juneau Icefield.
- The falling snow develops pressure and compacts the ice below. The process continued until the glacier weight caused it to flow like a river down the mountain. So, it is called one of the ‘Rivers of Ice.’
- On it flows downhill, it creates canyons and valleys, subsequently, rocks and trees from the area deposited in the next area.
- The deposited glacial matter is called Moraine. It is approximated to be ½ -inch each year between Douglas Island and Juneau.
- It is nearly 1.5 miles (2.4km) wide and over 100 ft. (30 meters) high at its terminus.
- It is the only glacier which is accessible throughout the year by a highway.
- The natural habitats of different fauna and the landscape keep changing depending on the constant motion of the glacier. This area is highly suitable for fishing.