WASHINGTON —Juneau, Alaska tourism is expected to reach about $160 million this summer season. Many will be traveling to newly upgraded U.S. Forest Service Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center (picture above taken from the view of the glacier from The Center by DinkY2K).
Located on the Tongass National Forest, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually, many of which from cruise lines. The Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau expects approximately 450 cruise ship ports of call into Juneau, as well as nearly 100,000 tourists arriving by ferry or air. International cruise ship clientele arrive from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, Turkey, Latin America, China, Russia, Japan, Korea and other countries.
A very popular stop, the Center offers amazing views of the famed “Inside Passage” and Alaskan scenery. “Imagine having a front row seat to a spectacular, enormous ice field flowing down a valley into the glacier, and that’s what you experience when you are at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This is a must-see venue that showcases Alaska’s natural treasures. The facility has been recently enhanced with Recovery Act funding and has become a state-of-the-art visitor experience bringing much needed tourism dollars into Southeast Alaska.”
In the fifties, the terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier, flowing into Juneau’s residential area, has retreated 1,900 feet or 580 m. The glacier is one of the few in the world with road accessibility and offers textbook lessons on glacial dynamics.
Nature and culture-based tourism is a significant contributor to the private sector economy during the summer months in the area, with the Mendenhall Glacier acting as the premiere attraction. The draw of the center, tourism spending in the Juneau area sustains hundreds of jobs at area shops, restaurants, hotels and recreation outfitter guide companies.
The site provides tremendous commercial opportunities for local outfitter guides and tour companies enhancing visitor experience. Helicopter flight-seeing, river rafting, dog sledding, guided hiking and biking excursions are all provided by privately run entities and contribute to sustaining local jobs in Southeast Alaska. Visitors can safely view black bears from elevated walkways and well marked trails from May to October, as they are out and about for the elevated salmon population in the nearby streams for the season.
The Recovery Act funding provided $2 million for upgrades at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center including new interpretive and exhibit materials and repairs to trails that help visitors enjoy the unique natural and cultural wonders of the Alaskan experience. Opened in 1962, this is the first visitor center constructed for the Forest Service and includes a 110-person theater and a combined retail/book store onsite.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.