The Mendenhall Glacier Alaska, which is located 13 miles from downtown Juneau, plays an important role in Alaska history. It was named after Thomas Corwin Mendenhall who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894. Mendenhall was a prominent scientist who also served on the Alaska Boundary Commission, which was responsible for surveying the international boundary between Canada and Alaska. Naturalist John Muir originally named the glacier Auke Glacier in 1879 after the Aak"w Kwaan of the Tlingít Indians. Muir thought that the glacier to be "one of the most beautiful of all the coastal glaciers." In 1892, the Mendenhall Glacier Alaska was renamed to honor Mendenhall.
The Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska extends for 12 miles from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake. The ice from the glacier flows forward at an average rate of 2 feet per day. This impressive glacier was formed during a period known as the Little Ice Age, which began about 3,000 years ago. Fortunately, the unique climate and geography of Alaska allows glaciers to survive long after they began receding from other parts of North America.
Alaska cruising is a popular form of Mendenhall Glacier transportation. Some tour operators even combine the glacier cruise with a salmon bake! If you would rather not cruise, and if you would prefer not to rent a car, Mendenhall Glacier Transport is an excellent mode of Mendenhall transportation. This company buses run from downtown to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center every half hour or so. Temsco Helicopters offers an interesting form of Mendenhall Glacier transportation. Their Mendenhall Glacier and guided walk tour was featured on Good Morning America. The tour includes approximately 30 minutes of flight time and approximately 20 - 25 minutes of Alaska hiking along the glacier.
Perhaps the most enjoyable way to see the glacier is to take a Mendenhall Glacier float trip. This sort of trip provides a safe and exciting introduction to white-water rafting. Prior to your Mendenhall Glacier float trip, you will suit up with rain gear, life jackets and rubber boots. Most rafts carry eight to twelve people and are accompanied by an experienced guide. As you glide along on your Mendenhall Glacier float trip, you will enjoy spectacular views of the hanging glaciers.
Your Mendenhall Glacier float trip adventure takes you down the river, where you will encounter several exciting Class II & III rapids. The trip is a fantastic experience for both beginner and experienced rafters.