Anchored off Mt. La Perouse in Dundas Bay

Sea otter Inside a glacial cave at Reid Glacier
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Cruising Southeast Alaska: John Hopkins and Reid Inlets


After a day at Margerie Glacier, we returned down Tarr Inlet to overnight at Reid Inlet. The anchorage there is close to where Tarr and John Hopkins Inlets join Glacier Bay, and is convenient for visiting the glaciers at their heads. Reid Glacier in Reid Harbor also is one of the few shore-accessible glaciers in the park. Like most glacial-carved inlets, Reid Inlet is generally deep throughout. Most boaters anchor in the northwest corner at the inlet mouth, where a spit provides shelter from northerly winds and and reasonable anchoring depths of 20-30 feet. We instead dropped the hook near the head, in 147 feet, for a close-up view of the glacier. (Map of Glacier Bay; Map of Area.)


  This is the view of Reid Glacier from our anchorage in Reid Inlet that night.
The following morning, we cruised to the head of John Hopkins Inlet to view John Hopkins Glacier. Our luck with the clear weather finally had run out. But that didn't diminish the scenery much.
John Hopkins Glacier is one of the more active in Glacier Bay, and is advancing with a flow rate of about 10-15' per day. Large pieces of ices frequently carved off the face during our visit. Margerie Glacier by comparison is flowing at 6-8' per day and is stable, with much less carving. Most of the other tidewater and terrestrial glaciers in the bay are thinning or receding, with flow rates of less than 5' per day.
The high rate of carving meant a lot more ice in the water. Unlike our Margerie Glacier visit, we eventually had to just push through the ice pack to get close to the glacier face. 
John Hopkins Inlet also is an important harbor seal breading ground. Hundreds of seals packed the ice floes near the head, seemingly unconcerned about the carving ice.
Because it's a breeding ground, the inlet head is off limits to cruise ships and larger passenger vessels. This small tour boat, the Fairweather Express II, arrived as we left and was the only other boat we saw in several hours.
Kayakers are common in Glacier Bay. Here a group has landed to check out a waterfall near the mouth of John Hopkins Inlet.
We anchored for a second night in Reid Inlet at almost the exact spot as the night before--right in front of the glacier in 147 feet. One of the nice things about having a hydraulic windlass is that depths like this don't stress it. We could raise and lower the anchor all day in that depth. The electric winch on the previous boat would have overheated before we brought the anchor up once.
Here's the view from inside the pilot house. You can see why we wanted to anchor where we did.
Reid Glacier is one of the few glaciers that can be easily accessed from shore, another reason we wanted to stop there. We'd actually planned to go ashore the day before, but had a problem with the dinghy davit that we eventually resolved, but not in time to go ashore.
Walking next to the glacier on recently-formed land reminded us of walking across newly-formed land at the lava flows on the Island of Hawaii. Some powerful forces of nature are at work to move rock as a river, whether quickly or slowly, melted or frozen.
The ice has an incredible deep blue color close up, particularly inside this cave at the glacier's base. The dense ice absorbs the high-energy colors at the red end of the spectrum, reflecting back only the low-energy colors at the blue end. Water has the same effect--when we are scuba diving at night, red is one of the first colors to disappear with distance. (And yes, going into a cave inside the glacier, even a glacier that's reasonably stable, was a little crazy.)
Walking away from the glacier was like walking forward through time--the age of the land increased visibly as we proceeded, judging by what was growing on it. First we walked on bare, glacial scrubbed rock, then through patchy grasses, and eventually small shrubs that progressively thickened.
Later that evening, the glacier all but disappeared as a thick fog blanketed the inlet.
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Last updated 2011.06.18