Mendenhall Glacier is a glacier about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley. It extends from the Juneau Icefield, its source, to Mendenhall Lake and ultimately the Mendenhall River. (Copyright Jose Ramos)

Neary: “Glaciers are rapidly disappearing from around the globe. People want to see them, to walk on them, to touch them while they still can.”

That’s John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center for the U.S. Forest Service. The glacier is a 13-mile river of ice that cascades into Mendenhall Lake, located near Juneau, Alaska.

Neary: “When our visitor center was opened in 1962, it was just a quarter mile from the glacier face. And when I first saw it – that’d be 1982 – the face had retreated another half mile. Most recently, we’re watching the glacier pull out of the lake onto a bedrock ridge.”

Neary says the changes to the landscape are obvious.

Neary: “We continue to build trails on ground that was recently under ice, and we create viewing platforms to see fish and wildlife that are entering new habitat. For example, black bears come near the visitor center to feed on sockeye salmon each summer in a stream that didn’t even exist 80 years ago.”

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Neary worries what the changes mean in the long run. But for now, they provide an educational opportunity.

Neary: “Our rangers are talking regularly about climate change.”

The rapidly retreating Mendenhall glacier provides visitors with visible proof of global warming.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...