Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Forests

As is the case throughout much of Southeast Alaska, temperate rainforest dominates the southern part of Glacier Bay National Park. The "high biological productivity" or ability of many plants to live in this coastal area is due to the mild, moist climate that has developed in the region over the past 200-300 years.

This is an old growth forest with massive evergreen trees like western hemlock and Sitka spruce that drip with lichens and mosses, and a thick layer of vegetation such as blueberries, fungi, liverworts and wildflowers that blankets the forest floor. The sheer quantity of things living or that once lived but are now decaying means that this type of forest produces some of the largest accumulations of organic material on earth.

As the forest matures or ages, trees grow taller and their branches form a canopy that shades the ground beneath. The soil becomes more acidic and swampy, favoring the growth of western hemlock. Spruce does almost as well in these conditions. Yellow cedar grows in the park's southwestern half on wet, sloping sites and peatland fringes. Mountain hemlock is common at higher elevations.

Over time, the forest canopy tends to become more open as trees of different ages and sizes survive. Some trees die from insects. Others are snapped off in wind storms. More light can reach the ground allowing herbs and shrubs to grow. Downed wood accumulates on the forest floor. Rotting tree trunks become "nurse logs" to the young vegetation, providing them with support and nutrients. Old-growth conditions like these could go on for centuries if there are no fires or disease.

Mixed in among the forest stands are open areas of ancient peatlands. These marshy areas are too wet for large trees. Plants like sedges, willows, and alders are common here.

The qualities of the forest changes as you move into Glacier Bay or explore the park's outer coast. In these places, natural forces like glaciers, erosion and river deposition cause significant forest disturbances. Just as something starts to grow, a catastrophic event like an advancing glacier or massive beach erosion wipes the slate clean and plants must start over. In these places, the forest rarely reaches the old-growth stage. Meadows and shrublands are common. Ancient peatlands are nonexistent.

$119.95
The last thing you want when you're in your groove and flying through city blocks is to be taken out of it by...
Price subject to change | Available through Backcountry.com
Featured Park
Rising above a scene rich with extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range stands monument to the people who fought to protect it. These are mountains of the imagination. Mountains that led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park where you can explore over two hundred miles of trails, float the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.
Featured Wildlife
The pika is a close relative of the rabbits and hares, with two upper incisors on each side of the jaw, one behind the other. Being rock-gray in color, pikas are seldom seen until their shrill, metallic call reveals their presence.