By the Numbers: Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park, one of Alaska's few road-accessible national parks, is a wonderland of mountains, glaciers, and wildlife. Here are some numbers that tell the story.
Acreage of the park. Since Kenai Fjords is "only" 1,047 square miles in area, it is the smallest of Alaska's National Park-designated NPS units.
Recreational visits in 2010. That's impressive. Coming on the heels of a slump that produced the lowest visitation in 15 years, this count is close to the park's peak attendance of 306,164 (in 1997).
Elevation gain of the 7.6-mile (round trip) Harding Icefield Trail, a strenuous but spectacularly scenic day-hike that begins on the valley floor near the park's Nature Center at Exit Glacier . Panoramic and close-up views of Exit Glacier can be had from three other, much easier trails, including a wheelchair accessible 0.5-mile loop. The trails in the Exit Glacier vicinity are the only maintained trails in the park.
300 square miles
Approximate area of the Harding Icefield, not counting the 300 or so square miles of its 38 out-flowing glaciers. The Harding Icefield is the only major icecap located entirely within the United States.
Typical annual snowfall received by the Harding Icefield, which may get twice that amount in some years. In the Exit Glacier vicinity, the annual snowfall is "only" about 200 inches.
Approximate driving distance from Anchorage to the park, which is situated near the terminus of the Seward Highway. Of the eight National Park-designated NPS units in Alaska, only Kenai Fjords, Denali, and Wrangell-St. Elias can be accessed by road.
117 miles per hour
Highest maximum sustained wind gust recorded in the park. The dense, cool air that flows down off the icefield and glaciers can generate strong winds, especially in winter. Properly termed katabatic (kat-uh-BAT-ik) winds, these gravity-assisted winds are commonly referred to as "glacier winds."
Nightly charge (three nights max.) for use of the Willow Winter Public Use Cabin, which is available after Exit Glacier Road is closed due to snow (usually in early November) through the first week in April. The cabin is reachable only via snowmobile, dogsled, snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
Sites in Kenai Fjord's only campground, a walk-in, tents-only facility near Exit Glacier. No camping fees are charged.
Duration of a full-day, ranger-narrated cruise through the waters of Kenai Fjords National Park and Chiswell Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Available from mid-May to mid-September, the popular 120-mile roundtrip cruise (also offered as a 6-hour catamaran trip) features mountains, tidewater glaciers, abundant marine wildlife, and other scenic delights -- including, of course, the deep, narrow, steep-sided inlets called fjords.
Distinct categories of "killer whales" that can be seen in and near the park. There are fish-eating resident orcas, marine animal-eating transient orcas, and fish-eating orcas that remain in open water and are less frequently seen.
Cell phone reception at Exit Glacier, the park's visitor hub. Don't count on making any "guess where I am" calls to the folks back home.
The lowest officially-recorded temperature at Exit Glacier. Kenai Fjord's coastal location moderates temperatures, yielding cooler summers and less severe winters than interior locations get at the same latitude. Summer daytime temperatures at the park's visitor hub normally range from the mid 40s to the low 70s.