Juneau: Alaska Adventure

| September 3, 2008

Our 36-hour stay in Juneau offered enough excitement to qualify as an Alaska adventure on its own.

Other Juneau Attraction Details 90% of Juneau's tourists arrive by cruise ship; not surprising since Juneau is not accessible by car. Although the cruise passengers who come through on the bigger ships only spend one day in Juneau, it doesn't mean they can't get out of the downtown area to the Juneau attractions listed below. Holland America, for example, has calls that arrive in Juneau at 8:00 a.m. and stay until 10:00 p.m. This is plenty of time to go whale watching and flightseeing or dogsledding on Mendenhall Glacier.

All of these attractions are as worthwhile to the one-day cruise passenger as they are to the visitor staying a few days, except for possibly the salmon hatchery. Ketchikan has a wonderful hatchery where cruise passengers take a beautiful walk along a natural stream teeming with spawning salmon amid historic Alaska wilderness homes.

Whale Watching: Even though we were booked on an adventure cruise that gave us fantastic opportunities for whale watching, one of our best whale watching adventures occurred during our stay in Juneau on a small three-hour day boat sailing from Auke Bay. The whales Dolphin Jet Boat Tours found for us were surprisingly active, repeatedly breaching (jumping almost completely out of the water) -- an activity we did not see again during our entire cruise.

You can book your whale-watching adventure at Whale Watching Adventure before you arrive in Juneau. The price is $109/adult and $89/child and the company provides transportation directly from the cruise ship pier with departures at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

click on pictures below for larger images:

Humpback dorsal fin   Whale plume   Humpback Bubble Feeding

Video of whale watching with Dolphin Tours in Juneau Alaska   Highly recommended video! This video shows humpback whales breaching in Auke Bay near Juneau during a three hour whale watching tour available near the cruise ship dock.

If you are lucky you will see an activity called bubble feeding, which has only been observed in Western Alaska, where a pod of humpback whales (about a dozen) work together to capture the krill and small fish they live on. First they sight a school of herring. One whale encircles the herring with a ring of bubbles while the pod swims below them with their mouths open. Meanwhile, a group leader gives auditory signals you can hear through an underwater microphone (hydrophone). When the "go" signal sounds the whales all swim towards the surface, mouths open, until the food trapped within the circle of bubbles gets to the surface of the water. All the whales, each of them 30 tons and 50 feet long, simultaneously break through the layer of food concentrated on the surface with their mouths fully open. It's an incredible sight to say the least. While there is no guarantee you will see either breaching or bubble feeding the company does offer a money back guarantee if you do not see a whale or orca dolphin (aka killer whale).

Mendenhall Glacier: The city of Juneau lies below the Juneau Icefield, 2500 square miles of solid ice which feeds 40 large glaciers and over 100 smaller ones. Mendenhall Glacier is within the city limits although it is 12 miles from downtown. It is close the University of Alaska at Juneau, which boasts a view of the glacier from every room. It is not true that you can take a city bus to the glacier (as widely reported) but you can get within 1.25 miles and walk the rest of the way.

Your best bet, however, is to pick up one of two shuttle bus companies that leaves from the Roberts Mountain tram area near the cruise ship dock. The cost is $14 roundtrip and busses leave roughly every 15 minutes.

Our visit to the park was made especially memorable by wild bear sightings, however. Bears are very common in Juneau. The nearby grade school has a tall fence to keep the bears out rather than the kids in. There is a fresh water stream not far from the glacier where wild salmon run throughout the summer. We were lucky enough to spot two adult black bears, one of the a mother with two baby cubs, fishing for dinner.

Most cruisers will get better views of glaciers when their ship sails to Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm. It is notable that Mendenhall Glacier does not calve (drop sheets of ice into the water) as dramatically as those in Glacier Bay do because it terminates in fresh water rather than salt water.

Continue Article >> Juneau -- Flightseeing and Sportsfishing (Part 4)

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Recommended Articles