Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park
By Radu Marculescu
Seward is a 100-year old town situated on the shore of Resurrection Bay on the east coast of the Kenai Peninsula. Its location is about 125 miles south of Anchorage or about 3 hours by road. The town was founded in 1903 as a camp base for the construction of a railway to the Yukon Valley (The Alaska Railroad) and become incorporated as a city in 1912. The town was named after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia. Located within the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Seward is a home–rule city with 3,000 year round residents. The town has been completely rebuilt after the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
As a starting point of the Alaska Railroad, Seward is an important supply center for the Interior Alaska region. Seward is a main port for the Gulf of Alaska. Shipping, fishing and tourism are the three pillars of Seward's economic activities. More than 300,000 cruise ship passengers choose Seward as a vacation destination. This is the place where many people can start or end an Alaskan vacation experience.
Voted an All-American City in 1963, 1965 and 2005, Seward offers diverse recreational opportunities. Seward is famous for its fabulous views, exciting attractions, and as the Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Seward is best known for the most attractive one day trip cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park, and also is known for its world-class salmon and halibut fishing. Seward is unique in Alaska for its Mount Marathon Race. It is held every Fourth of July.
Visitors can reach Seward by car, by train riding on Coastal Classic Route, by bus, or cruise ship. The most practical way to get there is by car from Anchorage. Driving a car to Seward is one of the most scenic drives on earth and gives visitors the freedom to discover their route to adventure. There are many wonderful places along the Seward National Scenic Byway to stop such as: Potter Marsh, Bird Creek, Beluga Point, Girdwood, Crow Creek Mine, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Hope, Portage Glacier, Moose Pass, Kenai Lake and Exit Glacier. Seward is like no other place. Every summer, more than one hundred thousands visitors are attracted to Seward to see the Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park.
Resurrection Bay and Day Harbor have five marine parks to all attractive boating destinations with protected anchorage. The bay has the best freshwater and saltwater fishing in Alaska, view of numerous tidewater glaciers, abrupt mountain slopes, sharp rocky shores, conifer forests and alder shrub thickets, and spectacular wildlife viewing. Resurrection Bay with its best fishing grounds in Alaska attracts thousands of anglers year-round. Halibut weighing over 300 pounds are caught each year in the bay’s waters. The town is host to one of the oldest and largest sporting events in the State, Seward Silver Salmon Derby held each year in mid-August. This is a popular event for Alaskan anglers as well as anglers from around the world. The cash prizes could pay for your vacation if you are the lucky winner. The Seward Silver Salmon Derby offers more than $200,000 in prizes.
Kenai Fjords National Park is the best of Alaska 's top destinations. Established in 1980 as a United States National Park, it encompasses over 650,000 acres of the Kenai Peninsula, famed for its spectacular glaciers and abundant marine wildlife. Kenai Fjords National Park has three main areas: Exit Glacier, Harding Icefield and the coast.
The park main features include the 300-square-mile Harding Icefield, one of the four major ice caps in the United States, and coastal fjords. The waters of Kenai Fjords are the perfect habitat for Steller's sea lions, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals, humpback, killer, gray and minke whales. In the Kenai Fjords terrestrial environment, along the shore, abound grizzlies and black bears, wolverines, marmots, moose, and mountain goats, bald eagles and an important number of sea birds. The park’s best features can be easily reached from the sea or from land. The park is one of three national parks in Alaska that can be reached by road. The park offers the best wildlife viewing and an opportunity to explore its unspoiled, untamed, and immense wilderness.
One of the best ways to experience the wonders of Kenai Fjords National Park is on a boat with someone who knows it well. Here are some suggestions:
- Plan to be in Seward, the center for most of the Kenai Fjords activities, between mid of May and mid of September
- Plan to stay 4 days or more in Seward
- Book transportation and lodging in advance
- Dress appropriately. The area has a maritime climate. Summer day-time temperatures range from the mid 40s to 70s (F). Be prepared for wet and cool days. Rain gear is required
- After arriving in Anchorage, rent a car and drive to Seward
- Take a day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park to see dramatic fjords, calving glaciers, icebergs, otters, sea lions, whales, bald eagle and puffins. The spectacular scenery and wildlife are breathtaking. Seward is a major port for charter tours. There are many choices for glacier-wildlife cruises! Kenai Fjords Tours (877-777-2805, 907-224-8068) provides various itineraries to meet many desires. Their tours range half-day (Resurrection Bay round trip) to 9 hours and a half (Northwestern Glacier tour). To see Fox Island and make a stop on it contact Kenai Fjords Tours. A full-day cruise to spectacular Holgate Glacier and the Chiswell Islands – a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is offered by Major Marine Tours (800-764-7300). For a tour narrated by a uniformed national park ranger contact Major Marine Tours. Renown Tours (888-514-8697) offers a fast and smooth ride on their catamaran cruise to Ajalik Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. This park is a unique place
- Seward has a large variety of options to the kayaker. Take a day tour kayaking from three different locations in the Seward area: Lowell Point, Fox Island, and Kenai Fjords National Park. Also, appropriate for all experience levels are a three-day sea kayaking tour in Kenai Fjords National Park's Aialik Bay or a five-day sea kayaking adventure tour to Northwestern Fjord, the jewel of Kenai Fjords National Park and a sea kayaking paradise. For reservations call Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking Company at 800-770-9119, 907-224-4426 or visit www.sunnycove.com
Seward offers excellent hiking trails. To get a complete list and directions near Seward, visit the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center. The Caine's Head State Recreation Area has a seven-mile coastal trail south of town. At the end of the trail, Caine’s Head is the scenic site that has the remains of Fort McGilvray built to protect Seward’s harbor during World War II.
Explore Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield. This is one of the top destinations for a Seward vacation and one of the excellent day hikes in Alaska. Exit Glacier is the most accessible park area. Trails lead to glacier from a parking lot at the end of Exit Glacier Road , which intersects the Seward Highway just north of Seward. The Exit Glacier Ranger Station offers detailed information on the glacier and Harding Icefield, interpretive programs, and hikes. Rangers provide information daily in the summer. A walk to the bottom of the glacier is easy. Two steeper trails to the glacier go across moraines and bedrock. The 4.5 mile long Harding Icefield trail is very steep: 3,000 feet up in three miles. This trail is day-use only and overnight backpacking is prohibited. The hike to the ice field is rated as difficult and is recommended only for people who are in very good shape. The trail offers spectacular views of the Harding Icefield. Dress appropriately. Be careful, this is Bear Country! The best way to see the vastness of Harding Icefield is by air.
Pay a visit to the 52 million dollar Alaska SeaLife Center. This is marine-animal research and rehabilitation facility. The main attraction is an aquarium containing fauna from the Gulf of Alaska , including sea lions, harbor seals and octopuses. In this aquarium you can see the puffins “flying” under the water!
If you are interested in dog sledding or mushing on snow visit IdidaRide website at www.ididaride.com or Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Tours at http://alaskadogsled.com.
If you are in town mid-July until the end of September go salt-water fishing. Make your reservation in advance. Fishing in a six-passenger boat custom built for salt-water fishing in Alaska is better, and ask for a "six pack" at the Fish House, P.O. Box 1209 , Seward , AK 99664 (800-257-7760, 907-224-3674 or www.thefishhouse.net). Even if you are new to the sport, the captain of the boat will provide you with rod, reel, and tackle, along with Alaskan techniques that in only 10 minutes will make you a successful fisherman. You will fish with live herring or cut bait such as octopus, herring, salmon heads or sablefish. Crackerjack Sportfishing Charters (877-224-2606, 907-224-2606 or www.crackerjackcharters.com), is the only provider of long range multi-day fishing expeditions to extremely remote and magnificent places outside of Resurrection Bay. The company will help you in making arrangements to get your fish processed and shipped home.
Plan a trip to Seward and the memories you will bring home from your vacation will last a lifetime.
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