The Columbia Glacier tours of Alaska

The magnificent Columbia Glacier is Prince William Sound's premier attraction and the most active iceberg producer. Its statistics are as impressive as well as its appearance.

This is the biggest of some 20 glaciers in the sound, and this frozen river of ice blankets some 440 square miles, flowing more than 40 miles from its source in the Chugach Mountains before going down into the bay that bears its name.

Columbia Glacier image via Wikipedia

At its end point, the glacier is greater than 6 miles across. Its face, which visitors can view on a trip across the sound, towers as high as 250 feet above sea level.

Regrettably, it's not as easy for boats to get as near Columbia Glacier just like in the past, when passengers can get right up to the massive ice wall and hear the thunder of its calving. The glacier has backed up over a mile since 1983 and its dramatically expanded iceberg production has almost clogged up the bay.

Scientists are presently analyzing the iceberg production, expected to increase as much as four times in the next 20 years, since it presents a threat to tankers carrying oil from Valdez.

You will witness that life at the face of the glacier is bustling. Harbor seals ride the bergs that sway violently along with the force of the collapsing ice. You'll find porpoises playing in the waves, as gulls and bald eagles soar above, ready to swoop down on the schools of fish that feed here.

Tours of Prince William Sound are offered by sightseeing cruises and charter boats from Valdez, Cordova, and Whittier. They also include visits to the more accessible glaciers. A flight-seeing trip affords you a fine view of the glacier's broad expanse.