Roadtrippin’ 2023: Kayaking in the shadow of the Columbia Glacier

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:35 PM AKDT
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VALDEZ, Alaska (KTUU) - At 8 a.m. on a cold rainy day, the Roadtrippin’ crew bundled up and boarded a water taxi for a two-hour ride to Columbia Bay.

The ride sailed past otters, Dall sheep, countless birds, and even a sleepy sea lion.

The rain started to die down as the boat rounded a corner and a spectacular display of ice appeared on the western side of the Columbia Glacier. The small tour group had the entire stunning view all to themselves.

Ice from the face of the glacier tumbled to the water below with a ‘whomp, crackle, slush’. The group watched from their kayaks as the glacier shed a piece of ice the size of a house. When it hit the water a small tsunami gently lifted the kayakers up and down.

“This is one of the most dramatic mountain landscapes in the world,” tour guide Weston Grow said.

“Oh there’s a big avalanche,” Grow said, pointing it out to the group.

Yixing Lu, originally from China, joined the group on his honeymoon.

“Just watching the icebergs falling and the sound,” Lu said about what made the trip worth it.

According to NASA, the Columbia Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier that flows directly into the sea, and is one of the most rapidly-changing glaciers in the world — losing more than 12 miles since the 1980s.

“Since the 1980s, the glacier has lost more than half of its total thickness and volume,” NASA’s website says.

Grow says every visit to the glacier changes, but preparation is always the same — wear layers, bring a lunch and water, and apply sunscreen.

Anadyr Adventures offers four types of trips to beautiful spots within Prince William Sound, including day trips for those with limited time in Valdez.

Roadtrippin' 2023: Preparing for glacier kayaking