When we arrived at Rust’s Fying Service (next to the International Airport that has one of Fed Ex’s largest cargo facilities in the world) we found out that it was too overcast at Mount Denali (formerly Mt KcKinley) to fly up there, Anchorage, Alaska USA
Six of us had planned on flying from Anchorage 100 miles (160 kilometers) by float plane to Mount Denali (formerly, Mt McKinley), the tallest mountain at 20,310 feet (6190 meters) in the United States (Alaska, Hawaii and the “Continental” – or “lower 48” – states), but, despite it being a rare sunny in Anchorage, the mountain was socked in and unapproachable by air that morning. We discussed options with our outstanding floatplane pilot, Mark A. Stadsklev (50,000 flights in 40 years and an Alaska wildlife and landscape book published from his photography), and he suggested we do a shorter, but very scenic, trip up to the Knik Glacier, lake George and back down the Knik River. We had a great morning with some memorable sights, including landing on Lake George (a USA National Natural Landmark), and very good photographs (below). Note that there are no roads anywhere in the region, so the only two options are a really long and dangerous ATV (all terrain vehicle) drive or a flight over the surrounding mountains to reach the glacier (and float planes can land on Lake George, as we did).
“Knik Glacier is located on the northern edge of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains… [It] is one of central Alaska’s greatest rivers of ice. Often referred to as Alaska’s ‘sunny glacier’, a unique microclimate or ‘rain shadow’ has created a truly diverse ecosystem. A northern desert surrounded by snow covered peaks, hanging glaciers, and waterfalls.” – www.knikglacier.com
Instead, our floatplane pilot, Mark A. Stadsklev, suggested that we fly to Knik Glacier, Anchorage, Alaska USA
A glimpse of the largest floatplane operations center in the United States, Anchorage, Alaska USA
“The Knik Glacier is located 50 miles [80 kilometers] north of Anchorage. Situated on the northern edge of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, Knik Glacier is one of the biggest glaciers in south central Alaska. At 28 miles long [45 kilometers] and over 5 miles [8 kilometers] across, Knik Glacier is actually a small remnant of a past ice age. During the Pleistocene ice age 600,000 years ago the Chugach Mountains were covered in ice over 1/2 mile thick [805 meters]. Knik Glacier connected to a massive ice field that extended hundreds of miles into the ocean.
There are no roads up here, so the only way to reach Lake George after flying over the Knik Glacier is by floatplane, Anchorage, Alaska USA; additionally, there are some boat operators with tours up the Knik River to the lake and the tidewater edge of the glacier where it enters the lake
The mountain area around the Knik Glacier is filled with snow and small, mountaintop glaciers, Anchorage, Alaska USA
More mountains and additional glaciers on the way to Lake George; Knik Glacier, Anchorage, Alaska US
The middle snow field looks very inviting for heli-skiing (helicopter); Knik Glacier, Anchorage, Alaska US
“Knik Glacier is a master sculptor carving valleys and shaping rock into landscapes of exquisite natural beauty. Surrounded by 10,000 foot [3,048 meters] snow-covered peaks, hanging glaciers, and waterfalls, the Knik Glacier has carved out one of Alaska’s most spectacular natural amphitheaters. Knik Glacier is the centerpiece of the 17,000 acre [6,880 hectares] Lake George National Natural Landmark. The National Natural Landmark Program recognizes over 500 sites in the United States. Established in 1962, the program aims to encourage voluntary preservation of sites that illustrate the geological and ecological history of the United States and to strengthen the public’s appreciation of America’s natural heritage. In order to be selected a site must of national significance and the best example of a regions biotic or geologic features. — www.knikglacier.com
Knik Glacier, Anchorage, Alaska USA
One tour operator’s web site notes: “if you can’t visit, you can see the glacier in films; it’s been the set for several Hollywood movies, like “Star Trek V” and “Avalanche; in 1991 Paramount PIctures used Knik Glacier to film a portion of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Knik Glacier was the setting for a scene in which Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy are rescued from the Klingon ice planet prison Rurta Penthe.”
This spectacular view shows the Knik Glacier flowing down around the mountains with black moraine stripes visible, into Lake George; Anchorage, Alaska USA
“The Knik Glacier was selected because of a rare geologic phenomenon that occurs here called a “jokulhlaup” (an ice dammed lake). Jokulhlaups occurred here annually until 1967. In winter the Knik Glaciers would advance and press its mass of ice, up to 400 feet [122 meters] thick, against the side of Mt. Palmer and block the flow of water from Lake George. In spring the Lake George Valley behind Knik Glacier would begin to fill with water. The 5 mile [8 kilometers] lake would swell to over 20 miles [32 kilometers] and water levels would raise 180 feet [xx meters]. The Water levels would eventually rise over the ice dams and the annual breakout would occur. Millions of gallons of angry surging water would roar down the valley loaded with silt, debris and glacial ice. This natural wonder occurred annually until 1966 and played a significant role in the lives of Native Americans and early pioneers. The town of Matanuska had to be relocated due to the annual flooding. Just before 1900 three Indian villages along the Knik River were destroyed by a great flood. Transportation routes between Anchorage and Palmer would be blocked for a week or two every year. Early pioneers held a lottery annually to predict the exact time and day the breakout would occur. Since 1967 a decrease in glacial advance has prevented the formation of Lake George, but a renewal of these awesome events could occur at any time.
The tidewater edge of Knik Glacier in Lake George, Anchorage, Alaska USA
“The tremendous events caused by the advance of the Knik Glacier have been replaced by tremendous events of a receding Knik Glacier. Knik Glacier is on the move! In 1997 the Knik glacier woke from a long slumber. In response to a global warming trend the Knik Glacier, like many Alaskan Glaciers, is getting smaller. A new lake over 3 miles [5 kilometers]long and over 400 feet [122 meters] deep has been exposed at the glaciers face and this lake is getting bigger every year.” – www.knikglacier.com
Part of the tidewater edge of Knik Glacier, Anchorage, Alaska USA; note that along the edge there are 400-foot (120 meter) ice walls that rise out of Lake George that is filled with icebergs that are floating, turning, and breaking apart
From the Knik Glacier and Lake George we flew down the 25-mile (40 km) long Knik River which empties into the Knik Arm section of Cook Inlet by Anchorage, Alaska USA
Part of the Knik River delta, Anchorage, Alaska USA
The mountains adjacent to the Knik River as we returned to Anchorage, Alaska USA
The flatlands along the Knik River as we returned to Anchorage, Alaska USA
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