DescriptionJuneau, Alaska's capital city, lies along the beautiful Gastineau Channel at the foot of snowcapped mounts Roberts and Juneau. The borough of Juneau covers 3,108 square miles of towering mountains, islands, saltwater bays, forested valleys and residential flatlands. Its road system extends from Thane, 6 miles southeast of downtown, northwest to Echo Cove at Milepost 40.2 on the Glacier Highway. The city is accessible by air or by sea.
When Joe Juneau and Richard Harris discovered gold in 1880, they started the first rush in American Alaska. At one time the Alaska-Juneau and Treadwell mines were producing about 20,000 tons of ore daily. Not until 1944, when the low price of gold and the high cost of extraction rendered it impractical, did mining operations cease.
The Alaska State Capitol offers free 30-minute guided tours mid-May to mid-September; the immense building lies between 4th and 5th streets and Main and Seward streets. The State Office Building, one block west of the capitol at 333 Willoughby Ave., contains a century-old totem pole and a Kimball Theatre pipe organ equipped with such accessories as a glockenspiel, sleigh bells and bird whistles. Free concerts are held Friday at noon May through September in the eighth-floor atrium. Also on the eighth floor, a terrace affords panoramas of the harbor and the surrounding mountains.
Impromptu, informal tours of one of the oldest churches in southeastern Alaska are available in summer. Built in 1894, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church is at Fifth and Gold streets; inquire at the church gift shop, or phone (907) 586-1023. The Shrine of St. Thérèse, near Milepost 23 on the Glacier Highway, is a stone chapel on an island connected to shore by a gravel causeway; phone (907) 586-2227.
There are many ways to tour Juneau. Nearby hiking trails, which vary in length and difficulty, lead to fishing spots, scenic mountain areas, old mine ruins and points near Mendenhall Glacier. Bus tours circle points of interest in Juneau and visit Mendenhall Glacier and the log Chapel-by-the-Lake at Auke Lake. Tours depart from the cruise ship docks during the summer. Visitors also can charter boats for sightseeing or fishing.
A good way to see the ice field is to take a charter flight. Companies that offer flightseeing tours from Juneau are Alaska Fly 'n' Fish Charters , (907) 790-2120; Alaska Seaplane Service, (907) 789-3331; Ward Air, (907) 789-9150; and Wings of Alaska, (907) 789-0790. Helicopter tours, float trips, gold-panning excursions and several tours of nearby and more distant points of interest are available through Gray Line of Alaska, (907) 364-7234 or (888) 425-1737; and Princess Rail Tours, (800) 426-0500.
Visitor InfoTravel Juneau 800 Glacier Ave., Suite 201 JUNEAU, AK 99801. Phone:(907)586-2201 or (888)586-2201
Self-guiding toursFree walking tour maps of the historical and governmental districts are available at the Travel Juneau office.
Mountains of IceGlaciers-blue-white in color, with long frozen tongues reaching into the water-cover more than 75,000 square miles in the United States, and most are found in Alaska.
If you've explored the waters of the Inside Passage or Prince William Sound, you've certainly seen them.
But how is a glacier formed? Here are the basics: Glaciers are created when more snow falls each winter than melts the following summer. As areas receive snowfall year after year, new snow layers create pressure on existing layers of snow and ice. This creates firn, small granules of compacted snow. Firn from previous years is buried and turns to ice through crystallization. The process continues, increasing the pressure on the ice field until air diminishes, and solid crystalline ice is formed.
As the layers of snow, firn and ice thicken, the lower ice can no longer support the weight of the mass, and it moves downward, smoothing surrounding mountain walls and floors and leaving grooves in a U-shaped valley.
You may be wondering why glacial ice is blue. It's actually not. Glacial ice is so concentrated that it absorbs all colors in the light spectrum except blue, which is reflected back at the viewer making the ice appear blue. The lack of oxygen in the ice causes it to melt much more slowly than ice created in your freezer.
Some of the more popular glaciers to visit are Columbia, Exit, Hubbard, LeConte, Mendenhall and Portage. But while you're gazing at these giant frozen wonders, keep in mind that almost 90 percent of an iceberg is below water!
Things to SeeAlaska State Museum
SkiingEaglecrest Ski Area