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Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Page 2

Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Page 2

Story and Photographs copyright 2004 by Richard Elgenson

Portage has a forest of dead trees which died after the land sunk in the 1964 quake.  They are visible in the second and third pictures below.


My plan was to detrain at milepost 54.4 for an optional float trip (package GD-1A) at Spencer Lake below the glacier.  The train stopped and about 10 of us exited and walked about 300 feetdown to an area that had an equipment tent and picnic tables with flowers.  The tour guides issued rubber boots, rain jackets and life vests.  We boarded a bus which drove about one mile to Spencer Lake.


They divided us into 2 goups and boarded rafts.  We shoved off and the guide paddled the raft on the lake near icebergs which have calved off Spencer Glacier.


Spencer Lake is deep in places, several hundred feet deep, yet shallow at the outlet.  This prevents icebergs from flowing out of the lake and visiting the railroad bridge.  Some spots in Spencer Lake are so shallow that ice which calves off is grounded on the bottom although ones near us were floating.  80% of an iceberg that floats is under water, making the potential of the icerberg rolling over a dangerous possibility.




We paddled around in a semicircle and over to the Placer River, then just before the railroad bridge we went ashore where the bus was waiting.  On the bus, we had lunch composed of crackers, smoked salmon, reindeer sausage, fruit and bottled water.


The bus returned us to the spot near the railroad and within 15 minutes the train arrived which took some passengers back to Portage.


Glacier Discovery Page 3