Land, water, art meet in Seward

Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2000

Seward, a bustling community at the head of Resurrection Bay, serves as district headquarters for Chugach National Forest, gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and home for a fleet of commercial fishing, recreational and tour boats.

One of the Kenai Penin-sula's older communities, it was founded in 1903 on top of older Native and Russian settlements as the terminus for the railroad to Alaska's interior gold fields. The railroad still runs, carrying Alaska coal to waiting ships and hauling inbound tourists and freight.

The town of 3,000 remains one of Alaska's most accessible destinations. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and an airport serve Seward, which lies just 125 road miles from Anchorage via the scenic highway that bears its name.

The Alaska SeaLife Center, a $56 million state-of-the-art aquarium and research center, graces the waterfront. A dazzling window into the sea, the SeaLife Center brings visitors of all ages close to Steller sea lions, seals, seabirds and fish. A recent addition is a remote camera that brings live video images of the sea lion rookery on the Chiswell Islands.

The adjacent Seward Marine Education Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, offers the public interpretive displays on marine science.

The Chugach Heritage Center sits on the other side of the Alaska SeaLife Center in the restored 1917 railroad depot. It celebrates the traditions of the area's Alutiiq, Tlingit and Eyak Athabaskan Natives with an art gallery, gift items and live interpretive performances.

Downtown Seward is home to a museum with information on Seward's history, Iditarod Trail and the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Visitors browse art galleries and gift shops. A quaint trolley gives rides around town.

Seward also offers stunning outdoor activities.

Visitors embark at the harbor and cruise ship docks for the rich waters of Prince William Sound and the rug-ged coast of Kenai Fjords National Park. Popular tours watch whales, glaciers, sea lions and seabird colonies; other boaters angle for silver salmon, king salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish and black bass.

Landlubbers can stroll to the face of Exit Glacier -- only half a mile from the parking lot, explore the Chugach National Forest trails, visit World War II installations at Caines Head or take a summer dog mushing tour.

Major annual events are the Fourth of July bash, culminating with the grueling Mount Marathon Race, and the Seward Polar Bear Jump-off Festival, an icy swimming event in January.

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