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Tracy Arm Fjord located about 45 miles south of the port city and state capital of Juneau, Tracy Arm Fjord has become a very popular stop along the Alaskan cruise route. Tracy Arm is a fjord in Alaska near Juneau It is named after the Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Franklin Tracy. 
It is located about 45 miles (72 km) south of Juneau and 70 miles (110 km) north of Petersburg, Alaska, off of Holkham Bay and adjacent to Stephens Passage within the Tongass National Forest. Tracy Arm is the heart of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, designated by the United States Congress in 1980.
Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness contains 653,179 acres (2,643.32 km2) and consists of two deep and narrow fjords: Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. Both fjords are over 30 miles (48 km) long and one-fifth of their area is covered in ice. During the summer, the fjords have considerable floating ice ranging from hand-sized to pieces as large as a three-story building. During the most recent glaciated period, both fjords were filled with active glaciers.
Tracy Arm is a magnificent glacier-carved fjord just south of Juneau. Many cruise itineraries include a visit to this incredible place, often as a substitute for the comparable Glacier Bay National Park.
The fjord is truly one of the most dramatic locations in Alaska, or in all of the world, for that matter. The sheer, glacier-carved walls are often shrouded in mist.
Visiting glaciers is surely one of the highlights of a journey to Alaska. There are an estimated 100,000 glaciers in the State, covering three percent of the landscape and creating most of its rivers. Glaciers are rivers of ice that flow from ice packs high in the mountains, where more snow falls than melts. In constant motion, they can move ahead at speeds of several feet a day, or sudden surges of as much as 300 feet. Some are retreating, or shrinking due to increased melting or a lack of new snow to feed them.
Tidewater glaciers flow to the sea and are found at the head of fjords or inlets which they carved while retreating. Calving occurs when pieces of a tidewater glacier break off and fall into the sea. The creaking sounds associated with calving glaciers and the roar as pieces fall into the sea are as impressive as the visual scene. The beautiful blue colour associated with glaciers is created by the density of the ice which absorbs all the colours of the spectrum except blue, which is reflected.
Tracy Arm Fjord and the Sawyer Glacier
Many cruises include a stop at Tracy Arm and its twin North and South Sawyer Glacier, either as a compliment to viewing at College Fjord or as a replacement for Glacier Bay as the sole glacier viewing stop on a round-trip Inside Passage cruise out of Seattle (or sometimes out of Vancouver).
The Fjord itself is utterly spectacular and worth the trip in its own right. At some 30 miles in length (about 6 of which are covered in glacier), the Fjord has magnificent, steep cliffs running along much of its length, often covered with lush trees and shrubs.
Waterfalls intermittently plunge off the cliffs and into the waters of the Fjord below, making for a seemingly endless number of photo opportunities as you head along its length.
South Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord
Of course it is the twin Sawyer Glaciers that are the true draw for the cruise ships, and they are quite spectacular too.
They are both actively calving glaciers, meaning that they continually break off in chunks of ice which the plunge into the water below in an amazing cloud of shredded ice. It’s the calving that everyone waits for, and it always draws the “oohs” and “ahhs” from everyone on board.
As with the other glacier viewing locations in coastal Alaska, you need to be prepared when you visit Tracy Arm Fjord in order to really be comfortable and enjoy the experience. This means dressing in layers and also having some sort of waterproof coat with you to wear on deck. The weather in the Fjord, as it is elsewhere in this region, is incredibly fickle, often damp, and can switch quite rapidly from clouds and overcast to sunshine and then back to drizzle.
Waterfall in Tracy Arm Fjord
A question that often arises with regards to Tracy Arm is whether it is as “nice as” Glacier Bay or the other glacier viewing spots like the Sawyer Glacier. While it really is hard to compare anywhere else with Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm does hold its own in terms of sheer natural beauty and “wow” factor.
The main difference is that there are more glaciers in Glacier Bay and the calving glaciers there are the most active, on average. In addition, part of what makes that area so unique are the truly massive peaks that form its backdrop.
All that being said, you will not be disappointed with Tracy Arm. It is a magnificent place with beauty and charms all its own, and the glaciers are quite amazing too.
If your cruise does not stop here, you can also catch flightseeing trips here from Juneau during a port stop there, giving you one more chance to view glaciers in action. And from the air, the Sayer Glaciers are all the more impressive.
Glacial calving in Tracy Arm can often be quite spectacular, as huge chunks of ice break off and plunge into the frigid waters below. Many of these chunks of ice are larger than several busses combined, so the effect can be simply jaw-dropping. Literally hundreds of waterfalls cascade down the sides of the fjord, creating an almost otherworldly atmosphere.
Famed naturalist John Muir compared the glacial-carved sheer granite cliffs in the area to those of Yosemite, saying that this region was even more spectacular than the more well known Yosemite valley.
Today, Tracy Arm and nearby Endicott Arm are part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area, itself part of the Tongass National Forest (can link to www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass). Like national forests across the country, the Tongass is public land managed for a variety of uses, including recreation, wildlife habitat, timber harvests and more (can link to www.fs.fed.us).
These lands belong to the American people and are managed for the benefit of present and future generations. Wilderness areas like Tracy Arm-Fords Terror are special parts of our public lands that Congress has permanently protected. Roads, timber harvests and development do not occur in these areas. Instead, they are preserved so that people can experience the myriad benefits of wilderness, including education, recreation, science, inspiration and spiritual renewal. To learn more about wilderness, and to find the federally designated wilderness area that is likely a day's drive from your home, visit www.wilderness.net).
One thing is certain when you visit Tracy Arm Fjord - you will be impressed and struck with awe at the magnitude and beauty of the place.
For visitors to Alaska who are not cruise passengers, tours of the fjord are available from nearby Juneau. It makes a wonderful day trip.
Shore excursions are also available from Juneau if your cruise itinerary doesn't include a stop here. In addition to cruises of the fjord, other options are available in Juneau to explore this magical place.
Kayak excursions into the fjord are offered in Juneau. This is an incredible way to explore this pristine environment and observe its wildlife and other natural features.
However you get there, you are sure to be inspired and impressed by the grandeur and beauty of Tracy Arm Fjord. It is one place I highly recommend you include on your Alaska itinerary.
The Sawyer Glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm may not be the most famous glaciers in Alaska, but many visitors find them to be the most dramatic. Framed by mountains on either side, the glaciers are often bathed in a light mist that amplifies the blue hue of the ice.
This earthcache is meant to be cruise ship friendly. Each cruise ship and tour company must obtain permission to cruise the fjord and have a naturalist on board to explain the geology of the area as you travel along. You never have to leave the ship/tour to log your visit.
The photo that follow is of the Sawyer South Glacier. Near the posted coords you will be able to see the Sawyer North Glacier as well. As the glacier receeded up the canyon, the glacier split into two parts. At some point in time it was one glacier.

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