The Hubbard Glacier is the largest, and one of the most spectacular tidewater glaciers in North America. Its ice cliffs, some 400’ (121 m) tall, calve icebergs into the fjord, which may frequently be larger than a five-story building. The glacier’s surface is creased and contorted, resembling the wrinkled skin of a giant elephant. Records show it has been growing in thickness and advancing since 1895. This stands in stark contrast to other glaciers around the world, most of which have been receding during the past century. In 2002, the glacier blocked Russell Fjord for two and a half months, raising water levels 61’ (18 m) and threatening local communities with flooding.
Nutrient-rich waters along the glacier face attract many species. Gulls and kittiwake colonies adorn smaller islands and harbor seals patrol the icy waters.
In 1890, Israel Russell explored the area of Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier, naming it after Gardiner G. Hubbard, a financier of his expedition and a founder and the first president of the National Geographic Society.