Seward’s location is nothing short of epic. It sits at the northernmost edge of Resurrection Bay, a deeply dug fjord carved millennia ago by retreating glaciers. To the east are snowcapped peaks decked out in their lower altitudes by forests of Sitka spruce. To the west is 700 square miles of ice known as the Harding Icefield. It is encompassed by the larger Kenai Fjords National Park. No matter where you look, there’s something beautiful to see.
With an estimated permanent population of 2,831 people as of 2017, Seward is the fourth-largest city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, behind Kenai, Homer, and the borough seat of Soldotna. The city is named for former U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who orchestrated the United States’ purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 while serving in this position as part of President Andrew Johnson‘s administration.
It was the area’s natural gateway to northern Alaska lands that led to its 1903 selection for the southern terminus of what would become the Alaska Railroad. The settlement was named Seward in honor of the politician who lobbied for and negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. When the railroad was successfully constructed to Anchorage, Seward’s future was secure. Today it serves as a turnaround port for most major glacier route Alaska cruises from Seward to Vancouver.
By definition, Seward has a subarctic climate, but it experiences relatively moderate temperatures compared to the rest of the state throughout the year due to the influence of the nearby Gulf of Alaska. Only one month, January, sees an average daily high temperature below freezing, and temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit are rare. The oceanic influence also imparts a high level of precipitation, with the heaviest amounts occurring during the fall and winter months.