Exploring Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula: incredible wildlife and the disappearing glaciers

Today, we left Anchorage and traveled south towards the Kenai Peninsula. One thing we have learned so far is the unpredictability of the Alaskan weather – today is one of the better days with partially clear skies. Sorry to continue on about the weather but it is a big thing here up in Alaska. In the southern coastal areas, south of the gigantic peaks of the Alaska Range of mountains, the weather is relatively temperate ( it is still cold by most people’s reckoning in the winter) and they get a lot of rain (and snow in the winter – the road side snow markers are about 12 feet high!!). No need to worry about snow today though! Our route takes us down the Seward Highway along a tidal estuary known as the Turnagain Arm. The views are amazing with steep, snow covered mountains of the Chugach Range on either side of the estuary and visible far into the distance. Absolutely stunning!

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Location: Hours: Fees:
Mile Marker 79 on the Seward Highway The visiting hours change regularly through the year so check their website for the current opening hours.  Adult – $16
Youth (7-17) $11
Senior (65+) – $14
Under 6 – FREE

About 40 miles south of Anchorage we pull over in a road side Visitor’s Centre to get our bearing and realise we are only a mile or two from the Alaskan Wildlife Conversation Center (at Mile Marker 79 on the Seward Highway). Of course with an animal mad girl with us stopping was compulsory. In fact it was great fun, with elk, musk oxen, caribou, brown & black bears and or course moose on display. The highlights for us were the brown bears and the moose.

The three brown bears were in a playful mood and when we reached them they were happily frolicking in the pond – despite their mock ferocious attacks its was plain to see they were simply enjoying each others company. We got some great shots as they splashed around for some 15 minutes or so. After that they disappeared into the undergrowth in their enclosure (which to be fair was large – not always making it easy to spot the animals). This would have been enough for us but by the main building of the Center were three very tame moose. Now Emily is a huge fan of moose, but had yet to get close enough to touch one – but these moose unlike their wild cousins were very amiable and sidled up to the fence where we were able to pet them and touch their antlers (commonly referred to as “paddles”). Some of the visitors, who claimed to be locals, were feeding these moose bananas and allowed Emily to have a try. Normally we would not approved of this as they obviously were not supposed to be doing this, but Emily does love her moose and may never get a chance again to feed one, so we turned a blind eye. We were all now very happy!!

Begich, Boggs Visitor Center: Portage Lake

Location: Opening Hours Fees:
Whittier, Alaska End of May to early September $5:00

A short distance from Wildlife Conservation Center is a turnoff from the Seward Highway which squeezes down a pass through the mountains to the port town of Whittier on Prince William Sound. We didn’t plan to go all this way but wanted to visit the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Lake. From here you get a great view across Portage Lake, which has been created by the melting waters of Portage Glacier, which is no longer visible from the Visitors Center and requires a boat trip out onto the lake which we didn’t have time for today. Portage is also the site of the 1964 earthquake, which had a moment magnitude of 9.2 and was an 8.4 on the Richter scale. It was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history, and the third most powerful ever measured by seismograph. 131 people died mostly in the tsunami waves which were created by the earthquake. There are some great exhibits in the Visitor Centre, covering the story of the glaciers in the area, impact of people on global warming, the earthquake and the wildlife in the valley. Life is pretty tough here, especially in the winters – although milder than interior Alaska they get feet and feet of snow here.

After Portage Lake we continue south to the town of Seward, where we will be staying for the next few days. 

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