Wednesday, February 26, 1958
Glacier Bay National Monument Created By Coolidge In 1925
By the National Park Service
Thirty-three years ago, on February 26, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge signed the proclamtion creating Glacier Bay National Monument. By a few strokes of his pen one of the most scenic areas of Southeastern Alaska became a part of the National Park system owned by th a people of the United States to be preserved unimpaired for uhe benefit of this and future generations.
The significance of this area was recognized first by the explorer-naturalist, John Muir in 1879 when a hazardous canoe trip rediscovered the bay discovered by Captain George Vancouver in 1794. From Vancouver's report it is certain that where Glacier Bay now lies there was at that time an enormous trunk glacier fed by many tributaries, with an actively discharging cliff near the mouth of the bay, probably in the vicin¬ity of the. Beardslee Islands.
After his second visit to Glacier Bay, Muir's accounts of the area began appearing in magazines and shortly after the articles appeared, the steamer "Queen" began its long series of tourist excursions to Muir Glacier. In the decade that Captain Carroll sailed into Glacier Bay, thousands of tourists saw
Muir Glacier at close range and it became generally familiar by reputation as the type example of the tidewater glacier. The tourist visits came abruptly to an end in 1899, and the period of rapid glacier recession began. The sudden change has been attributed to the great earthquake of 1899 which centered in the vicinity of Yakutat Bay. Enormous accumulations of floating ice barred close approach to Muir Glacier and tourists were routed to Taku Glacier.
From 1899 to 1913 Muir Glacier had receded eight miles and from 1913 to 1946 it receded another five miles. By 1921, Tarr Inlet emerged. Ancient weathered stumps uncovered by retreating glaciers show that the climatic pendulum has swung in a ponderous rhythm of centuries.
Inspired by the work of John Muir, other scientists visited the region. Reid and Gushing, G. F. Wright, Gilbert and Muir on the Harriman Expedition, Tarr and Martin, F. E. and C W. Wright and J. B. Mertie, Jr., made valuable contributions. Field work by Dr. William S. Cooper during four expeditions from 1914 to 1935 contributed greatly to the knowledge of the area. Captain Torn Smith of Juneau took the party on the 1916, 1929 and 1935 trips.
The campaign to establish the Glacier Bay National Monument began in Boston in December, 1922 at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. The scientific reports were overwhelming evidence of the value of the area and the necessity to preserve its unique features of scientific and scenic interest.
Although the campaign met opposition and adjustments in its original proposals were made, at the final conference of the committee, the National Park Service officials stated that the Glacier Bay campaign had more widespread support than any similar movement in their experience.Glacier Bay contains one of the most powerful displays of nature's forces where active and inactive tidewater glaciers portray the action of the relentless ice fields. Mount Fairweather, as I veil as other high peaks of the Fairweather Range form vith peaks of the St. Elias Range a series of interlocking mountain landscapes of breathtaking beauty.
However, superlative as are these mountains in themselves, they are not the dominating features. The glaciers, the vast ice fields, the interglaeial forests and the present march inland of plant and tree growth and associated wildlife where glaciers are receding are the dominant evolutionary and ecological factors that give the area a predominant standing. In contrast to the wilderness that John Muir visited in 1879 a road now runs from Gustavus to Bartlett Cove, a distance of twelve miles. This links the monument to the Gustavus Airport. A dock, small boat harbor and seaplane ramp are completed in Bartlett Cove and the Juneau contractors Cole and Paddock are at work now completing a series of facilities to make this a permanent base.
Future plans include the development of concession facilities as well as additional stations to make a satisfactory visit to the area possible. The unspoiled nature of this area will not be altered by this program. Glacier Bay will stand as a National Monument to be enjoyed by an increasing population of visitors to a great and growing territory.