Seward was founded in 1903 as the ocean terminus of the Alaska Railroad and is Alaska’s only deep water port with rail, highway and air transportation to the interior. It’s natural beauty surrounds with Mt Marathon and the Harding Ice fields as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Glaciers too numerous to mention wrap the cold bay in moving crystal castles through ancient mountains and valleys.
It is a welcoming place with many RV campgrounds including one downtown right on the bay. The Alaska Sealife Center here celebrates the seaport culture. We planned an exciting side trip here – a helicopter ride over the glaciers with a stop on Godwin Glacier for a sled dog ride.
Alaska Sealife Center
This facility is a museum that traces Alaska’s sea history, as well as a sea bird refuge and rehabilitation program and an Aquarian that features sea creatures typical of these frigid but bountiful waters. It’s somewhat well organized but so full of information and displays that you need a whole day or two to see it all. We had a personal meet up with three different types of puffins. The first – a rescued bird who has been there for several years named “Rain” an apropos name given the coastal Alaskan weather. Puffins are in the Alcidae or “diving” family of seabirds. Tbese nomadic birds return to the craggy rock islands in the northern sea coast bay only in summer to raise offspring but spend the majority of their lives at sea – somewhere along the continental shelf. They mate for life and might be separated during nomadic periods only to reunite annually in summer. Scientists tracking their migration patterns are still mystified by their travel routes. Below is a Horned Puffin – note the tiny black horn above his eyes. Their colorful beaks are the same brilliance in both males and females. These Horned puffins travel the farthest of the species – as far as northern reaches of Alaska and well across the Pacific to northern Japan.
Small fish and tiny crustaceans are their preferred food and the trainer rewarded Rain for a particularly good performance. Although partially rehabilitated his injuries mean he will remain with the Center’s seabird colony.
Below are two tufted Puffins – although similar in size, they have a then bright yellow tuft of feathers hence their name, a slightly longer beak and darker body colors. Both Alcides are found sharing nesting areas on the Kenai Bay islands and throughout the Aleutians although Tufted puffins nest on the ledges and horned puffins dig a nest burrow, they appear to live in harmony with Common Murres a species cousin who populates similar areas.
This darker sea bird below is also in the Alcidae family – diving birds – a Crested Auklet – notice his streamlined shape and the distinctive feathers on his head. Auklets, Puffins, Murres, Guillemots, and Murrelets share an ancient ancestor – the extinct Great Auk.
All of these birds dive and swim with grace and elegance but have trouble walking and negotiating land movements.
The Sealife Centers Aquarium gave us a chance to see Alaska’s unusual sea creatures in a warmer environment. Below are some of the sea anemones, starfish, and a very large red octopus that posed for us.
Where Salmon is KING!
The display below shows the salmon that are vital to Alaska’s economy and her ecology. There are five kinds of Salmon: King or Chinook Salmon, Coho or Silver Salmon , Sockeye or Red Salmon, Pink or humpback Salmon, Chum or dog Salmon.
Everyone has a favorite type depending on a flavor and texture preference. Suffice it to say we ate a lot of salmon while visiting but I bet the bears ate more!
Kenai Fjords National Park by harbor cruise catamaran
We visited Kenai Fjords National Park via cruise boat for a close up view of glaciers and the remarkable animals who inhabit the waters of this fantastic sea based national park.
Approaching a huge glacier in our cruise boat – remember the color is caused by the grinding up of tiny particles of granite as it travels. Light reflects off the particles giving the glaciers their blue tinge.
The same glacier up close – here we witnessed “calving” …. where pieces of the glacier break off into the bay as the glacier’s leading edge gets warmer and melts.
Bull sea lion schooling a younger family member in sea lion protocol. Sea lions occupy many of the coastline areas and you can hear them communicating from a distance.
My first killer whale or Orca sighting! They are Magnificent animals to see in person. We were lucky to see a family of them who entertained us with their water antics.
Horned Puffins colony in one of their natural nesting sites – a rough craggy rock island in the Bay.
The environment in this amazing park is beautiful in ways only photos can describe.
Diving in to catch fish for dinner! Rick took this photo as we were watching a group of them dive for dinner.
Turning Heads Kennel on Godwin Glacier
Our visit to Turning Heads Kennels for a sled dog ride at Godwin Glacier via Seward Helicopters was totally over the top! A Bucket list item we never knew we had!
A three person helicopter took us to the top of the glacier – just us , the pilot and a supply of raw meat and kibble for all the sled dogs.
Tidal area that is dry during low tides – tides are 15 + ft up in Alaska coast.
Goodwin Glacier – photos from the Seward Helicopter
Turning Heads Kennel on Godwin Glacier – living with and training champions for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races
The dog on the right below is named “Lola” – couldn’t resist the namesake pic.
The Kennel had ten nine week old puppies that we got to visit with and hold – they were beyond were adorable!
An wicked cute puppy we thought about smuggling home.
Our sled dog team! The ride with them was amazing and sort of scary – they run so fast and it’s on the slippery glacier ice. We saw a big bear paw print on our ride – a big bear visited the area the previous day – a rare occurrence – bears prefer forest areas.
The stunning view as we were returning from the glacier and Kennel tour – heading back to Seward. A Gorgeous bay view that I left crooked so to share the helicopter perspective.
Seward in the distance as we descend from Godwin Glacier and prepare to land in our little red helicopter. Large cruise ships frequent these waters during the summer season with thousands of tourists from all over the world. One usually associates cruise ships with warmer areas so it is a bit incongruous. But it is a great way to sample Alaska, however traveling like we did for over a month through this incredible land was a superior experience.
I cannot say enough about the time we spent in Seward. It was of course a typical seaport but it shimmered with natural beauty and historical perspective even in the rain. The Sealife Center people were amazing and we learned so much there. But the sled dog experience was truly a once in a lifetime experience. If you can ever add that to your itinerary – do it!
The scenery we witnessed in the Kenai Fjords National Park took your breath away. Glaciers are hard to describe in words – they really are otherworldly. We took so many photos trying to capture each moment near them. We would definitely consider another visit someday although it would be via airplane not motor coach.
Au Revoir Seward❤️