April 24, 2024

Glacier Bay National Park is ‘pretty special.’ Here’s why.

You wouldn’t be the first to confuse Glacier National Park with Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

“We hear a lot from people who want to see Glacier National Park, and we have to point them in a different direction,” laughed Peter Christian, chief spokesperson for Public Affairs for the National Park Service’s Alaska region.

It’s a shame because Alaska’s Glacier Bay is equally breathtaking in an entirely different way. 

“It’s this protected area of this bay that is just chock full of marine wildlife,” Christians said. “The whole panoply of marine life is there and then you have these massive glaciers that come down to the tidewater … so it’s pretty special.”

Here’s what you should know about Glacier Bay, the latest national park in USA TODAY’s yearlong series.

What’s the difference between Glacier and Glacier Bay?

Chunks of ice are seen in the water near Johns Hopkins Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

“I mean, they both have glaciers in them, but they couldn’t be more different,” Christian said. “One’s entirely land based, up on the Continental Divide there in Montana, and then there’s Glacier Bay, which is almost entirely affected by the marine zone.”

Glacier also gets many more visitors. More than 2.9 million people visited the Montana park last year, making it the 10th most visited park according to National Park Service records. Glacier Bay saw under 546,000 visitors.

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