Mendenhall Lake Kayaking (September 2011)

At the foot of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska is a lake, called Mendenhall. (With an outflow called the Mendenhall River and it's in the Mendenhall Valley...lots of stuff called Mendenhall in the valley) The glacier calves and sends icebergs onto the lake. We kayaked across the lake from a put-in near the outflow, up to the glacier itself. The water is obviously pretty cold (about 34°) so be prepared for it and don't plan on swimming far if you flip. At the beginning you can't see the glacier all the way down to the water due to the rock peninsula sticking out, but once you get around it, it's amazing.

The Mendenhall Glacier from the Put In

The views were amazing from anywhere, even on a cloudy day. We put in at the West Glacier Trailhead and began kayaking across the lake. We could see some icebergs along with Nugget Falls on the other side of the lake.

Panoramic View from the Put-in

On the way across we went close to some of the icebergs. We had to be careful that they did not flip while we were too close and send us into the water.

Nose of the Kayak on a Growler (A Small Iceberg)

There is a river coming out of the glacier. There's a waterfall where it enters the lake. This season, the waterfall was hidden at the start of spring, but as the glacier retreated during the summer, it come out. It was covered up again in the following winter's advance, but the glacier is overall retreating. In a few years, it's believed that the glacier will retreat uphill and no longer be touching the lake.

Waterfall Coming Out of the Glacier

When we got to the foot of the glacier, we got out for a bit and walked on it. Much of the top of the glacier is rough ice with hills and cracks.

End of the Mendenhall Glacier

During the season there was a large iceberg we called Atlantis. It had a tunnel in it, that turned into a large arch toward the end of the season. At this point in the season, the arch had collapse and I kayaked into what would have been under it. On the undersides of the iceberg, you can see the blue glacial ice - water that fell as snow and had all the air squeezed out of it due to the pressure of other snow on top of it over the course of about ten years.

The Iceberg Atlantis

Being around the glacier and the icebergs is amazing, especially if you get to see how the change through the summer season. The icebergs shift, break apart, roll over and move around the lake. Occasionally they'd get into the river and end out in Fritz Cove, part of the Pacific waters on the inside passage. Be careful if you go to visit this area, you may never want to leave.


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