One of the greatest glaciers in North America is so big that it’s located in both the United States and Canada. It’s one of the main attractions in two immense national parks in both countries as well.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about Hubbard Glacier, one of the most fascinating feats of nature in the world.
1. The glacier is located in both Alaska and Yukon
Hubbard Glacier is an enormous body of ice that gradually moves forward in the U.S. state of Alaska and the Canadian territory of Yukon.
It’s located in both Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in eastern Alaska and Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon. The national park in the United States is by far the largest of its kind in the country, covering an area of 20,587.18 square miles (53,320.57 square kilometers).
What’s remarkable about these parks is that they feature the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan (19,551 feet / 5,959 meters), and the second-highest mountain in both Canada and the United States, Mount Saint Elias 18,008 feet (5,489 meters).
Mount Saint Elias is also the second-highest mountain in both Canada and the United States. Only Denali in Alaska is higher in the U.S. and it sticks out at a height of 20,310 feet (6,190 meters).
2. The glacier emerges just north of the highest mountain in Canada
Mount Logan is located just nearby and is one of the main attractions of Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada. The main source of the glacier emergest just north of this majestic mountain, just 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Mount Walsh.
The longest source is situated at an elevation of about 11,000 feet (3,400 meters) but is not the only source of the glacier though. There’s a tributary that starts right on the eastern ridge of Mount Logan and which joins this immense force of nature.
Hubbard Glacier has a total length of 76 miles (122.31 kilometers) which makes it North America’s largest tidewater glacier.
It also has a maximum width of about 7 miles (11.26 kilometers) and a terminal face that stands 600 feet (182 meters) tall of which 350 feet (106 meters) is visible above the waterline.
3. It’s joined by another glacier before reaching Disenchantment Bay
Multiple smaller tributaries join the immense glacier before it calves huge icebergs into Disenchantment Bay. This bay is located right at the head of the larger Yakutat Bay, named after the community located at its mouth, which eventually leads into the Gulf of Alaska.
One of the most prominent tributaries can be found just near the terminal face of the glacier, right across Russell Fjord. This body of ice is referred to as “Valerie Glacier.”
The convergence of these two enormous glaciers happens just before the glacier’s terminal face.
4. The glacier created a lake that threatened sea life a couple of times
Hubbard Glacier is one of those glaciers that move back and forth. This is especially emphasized by the fact that it created “Russel Lake” in both 1986 and 2002.
This means that the glacier advanced so much that it closed the opening between Russel Fjord and Disenchamentment Bay on these occasions. IN May 1986, the newly created lake started filling and the water level rose about 25 meters (82 feet).
The sea animals that were trapped inside Russel Lake were severely threatened by the decreasing level of salt. This problem eventually solved itself on October 8 of that year, the day that the dam blocking the entrance of the fjord gave way, and the water level was restored to its original state.
5. It can only be approached from a distance for a particular reason
The terminal face of the glacier above water level reaches a maximum height of about 350 feet (106 meters). As the huge ice mass moves forward, large icebergs are deposited into Disenchantment Bay.
This is one of the reasons why it’s impossible to go too close to this natural wonder as these icebergs can have the same size as a 10-story building.
The most dangerous part is the moment that these icebergs shoot up from below after being deposited into the water. After all, we don’t want a 10-story chunk of ice colliding with the hull of a ferry passing by, right?
More interesting facts about Hubbard Glacier
6. The glacier was named after a man named Gardiner Greene Hubbard (1822-1897), the first president of the National Geographic Society.
This non-profit organization is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has grown to become one of the largest scientific and educational organizations in the world.
7. Hubbard Galcier is far from being the only glacier in the area. The Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is home to multiple other famous glaciers as well, including two holding a fascinating record.
Malaspina Glacier is the largest piedmont glacier in North America as it covers an area of 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers). Nabesna Glacier has a length of 53 miles (85 kilometers) which makes it the longest valley glacier in the world.
8. The event on October 8, 1986, is considered to be the largest glacial lake outburst flood in recorded history. The moment the dam gave way, water started bursting out for 24 hours straight.
An estimated 5.3 cubic kilometers (1.3 cubic miles) of water gushed through the gap, a huge amount that completely restored the water level of Russel Fjord to its original level the next day.
9. The same dam that blocked the entrance of Russel Fjord emerged again in the Spring of 2002. The water level quickly rose again to 18 meters (59 feet) but was released once again on August 14 of that year after the dam gave way.
One of the main reasons that scientists believe that this wasn’t the final time this dam was formed is because of the Valerie Glacier. As this glacier pushes forward, it contributes to the blocking of the entrance to Russel Fjord.
10. One of the most astounding facts about Hubbard Glacier is that the ice we see at its terminal face is up to 500 years old. It originally fell as snow near its source and it takes about 500 years for the ice to reach Disenchantment Bay.
This ice is then deposited into the bay as huge icebergs, one of the most amazing natural spectacles on the planet.