Alaska has the highest mountain (Mt. McKinley), the longest coastline, eight national parks, ten national preserves, four national monuments, sixteen national wildlife refuges, twenty-six national wild and scenic rivers, and two national forests. Nearly 16% of the state is designated as wilderness, compared to only 2.5% in the contiguous United States. And, although a bit cooler, it is an eco destination for all seasons as Alaska offers a special connection to nature, native culture and wildlife.
Approximately eight years ago, my husband and I had a wonderful trip through Alaska. We went on ice trekking on Mendenhall glacier near Juneau, kayaked and saw the most spectacular sight of bald eagles diving for salmon near Sitka, and went for a long bike ride and hike around Ketchikan.
The main eco destination areas of Alaska are the Seal Life Center in Seward for marine conservation and education, Denali National Park for wildlife viewing and hiking, Glacier Bay for impressive tidewater glacier discovery, and Anan Wildlife Observatory for some bear watching. The main family ecotourism activities include rafting, fishing, and skiing.
In one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation legislation in U.S. history, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 created 105 million acres of new protected areas. Perhaps as a result, ecotourism has been supported in Alaska due to the effect of climate change on its land including melting polar ice, the retreat of glaciers, increasing storm intensity, wildfires, coastal flooding, droughts, crop failures and loss of habitat for plant and animal species. Recently, Alaska even developed an Adventure Green Alaska tourism certification program to highlight those companies that meet the tourism standards of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Paradoxically, the state is also home to one of the largest oil fields in the United States resulting in a contentious environmental debate about offshore drilling that has lasted for decades. Nonetheless, new conservation efforts that have been tied to ecotourism efforts have begun to improve environmental prospects for the state.
Watch a video about the Kenai Fjords National Park:
Whether traveling by small boat cruise, motor coach or train, Alaska offers many fun and educational options as a family ecotourism destination as well. If you want to experience wildlife in a relatively untouched land, such as Kenai Fjords National Park, but not leave the United States, Alaska will not disappoint.