Muir Glacier

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Muir Glacier
Morse Muir Glaciers 1994.jpg
Map showing the location of Muir Glacier
Map showing the location of Muir Glacier
TypeValley Glacier
Coordinates59°06′17″N 136°22′56″W / 59.10472°N 136.38222°W / 59.10472; -136.38222Coordinates: 59°06′17″N 136°22′56″W / 59.10472°N 136.38222°W / 59.10472; -136.38222
Length11 miles (18 km)
TerminusIce-contact delta

Muir Glacier is a glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is currently about 0.7 km (0.43 mi) wide at the terminus. As recently as the mid-1980s the glacier was a tidewater glacier and calved icebergs from a wall of ice 90 m (200 feet) tall.[1]

Photograph of Muir Glacier by Frank La Roche ca. 1897
Another La Roche photo of the glacier, this one showing "black ice"

The glacier is named after Scottish-born naturalist John Muir,[1] who traveled around the area and wrote about it, generating interest in the local environment and in its preservation. His first two visits were in 1879 (at age 41) and 1880. During the visits, he sent an account of his visits in installments to the San Francisco Bulletin. Later, he collected and edited these installments in a book, Travels in Alaska, published in 1915, the year after he died.


Maps showing retreat of Muir Glacier from 1941 to 1982

Muir Glacier has undergone very rapid, well-documented retreat since its Little Ice Age maximum position at the mouth of Glacier Bay around 1780.[2] In 1794, the explorer Captain George Vancouver found that most of Glacier Bay was covered by an enormous ice sheet, some 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) in places.[3]

In 1904 the glacier reportedly "broke through the mountains" with Pyramid Peak to the west and Mt. Wright and Mount Case to the east.[4]

From 1892 to approximately 1980, it had retreated nearly 32 kilometers (20 mi).[1] Between 1941 and 2004, the glacier retreated more than 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) and thinned by over 800 meters (2,600 ft). Ocean water has filled the valley replacing the ice and creating Muir Inlet.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Scheffel, Richard L; Wernert, Susan J (1980). Natural Wonders of the World. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association. p. 259. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
  2. ^ Hall, D.K.; Benson, C.S.; Field, W.O. (1995). "Changes of glaciers in Glacier Bay, Alaska, using ground and satellite measurements". Physical Geography. 16 (1): 27–41.
  3. ^ Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association, Inc. pp. 259. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
  4. ^ Muirhead, James Fullarton, ed. (1909). The United States, with Excursions to Mexico, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Alaska: Handbook for Travellers. United States of America: K. Baedeker. p. 684.
  5. ^ "Photo of glacier in 1941 and 2004". National Snow and Ice Data Center. Archived from the original on 2012-04-08.