Park Week Features: Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park.. where mountains, ice and ocean meet. This national park covers over 1,000 square miles of the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska, and contains the Harding Icefield, from which over 40 glaciers flow! The park gets its name from the numerous fjords these glaciers form as they flow from icefield to sea.

Though the park is over 50% glaciated, it has its fair share of wildlife. Timber wolves, brown and black bears, moose, and lynx roam the land, while orca, humpback whales, otters, and Stellar sea lions swim the waters. Puffins can also be spotted in Kenai, as well as numerous bald eagles.

Kenai Fjords has likely been inhabited for thousands of years, though little evidence exists due to rising sea levels and earthquakes. Archaeology evidence of Sugpiaq/Alutiiq living in the area does appear 1,000 years ago, and it’s estimated that five villages existed on the outer coast of Kenai at the time of contact with Russian explorers in the late 1700’s. Sugpiaq people still live in the area, and the Port Graham Corporation retains ownership of over 42,000 acres within the park.

Kenai Fjords was deeply affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. Oil eventually contaminated 4% of the park’s coast, and cleanup proved difficult. Despite tremendous effort, oil was still being found on beaches 20 years after the spill. 

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