July 13, 2012
Today we toured Glacier Bay on the catamaran operated by Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours. Though it was cold and drippy, and Friday the thirteenth, luck was with us from a wildlife point of view.
The tour ran all the way up Glacier Bay to the head of Tarr Inlet, where the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers dump into the water.
Wildlife sightings included a few dozen sea otters in Sitakaday Narrows, about 100 steller sea lions on South Marble Island, two adults wolves with four puppies near Tidal Inlet, a mountain goat on Gloomy Knob, humpback whales scattered throughout the route, a bull sea-lion eating large chunks of fish in Bartlett Cove and a porcupine back in the Bartlett Cove boat launch. As for birds, we saw glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, horned puffins, tufted puffins, bald eagles, pelagic cormorants, oyster catchers, common murres and surf scoters.
At the head of Tarr Inlet, we floated for half an hour or more to watch ice fall off the 250 foot face of the Margerie Glacier. We only saw small amounts of ice fall, the tides not apparently being ideal for larger ice falls.
On the way in, we dropped off sea kayakers near Muir Point and picked up a group at Hugh Miller Inlet on the way back out. Such a trip is very appealing to me. I imagine that a several day tour by sea kayak would be an extraordinary experience, probably using the incoming and outgoing tides to propel you up into inlets and then back to camp. The camp at Hugh Miller Inlet with tidal access to Scidmore Bay and Charpentier Inlet area looks like a great option for such an approach.
The boat itself was great. There were several dozen binoculars scattered all over the boat for guests to use. A very knowledgeable Park Service ranger kept us all very informed about what we were seeing. Hot drinks were always available and they served a descent lunch of salmon chowder, sandwiches, fruit, chips and a granola bar. The boat was equipped with a library of reference books and wildlife exhibits. I would recommend showing up at the dock by 7:00 and trying to snag a seat in the upper level with its good access to the outdoor viewing deck. While the lower level has the snack bar, library, exhibits and bathrooms, its windows were pretty well fogged up most of the time.