History

History

The Bowhay’s began Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure as a way to express their  botanical creativity through the use of the natural landscape. Some use a canvas to paint a picture, while Steve and Cindy have changed the mountain-side on Thunder Mountain to create a lasting image of Alaskan beauty.

In 1994 the enterprising couple purchased six-and-a-half acres of storm damaged property from a gracious local businessman eager to help the couple expand upon their thriving Nursery operation. Steve and Cindy began to rehabilitate the property to safeguard their greenhouses from problematic environmental concerns. The property’s ecological issues were the result of a huge storm that occurred in the summer of 1984 which caused a massive landslide to let loose tons upon tons of organic material from the 1,500 ft elevation of Hienzelman Ridge on Thunder Mountain. Photos below are by photojournalist at the time, Brian Wallace.

One major aspect of the land development included reclaiming the eroding stream which had the potential to cause future devastating landslide. During the reclamation process, numerous settling ponds were designed throughout the stream to direct water flow and slow the rate of erosion to the hillside. This included adding a series of waterfalls cascading through the Glacier Gardens property, all are uniquely man-made and landscaped to blend and contrast the rainforest with the botanical gardens.

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Stream big rocksStream w grandpaStream and Trees

After permitting the U.S. Forest Service and the City of Juneau, Steve and Cindy acquired an additional 44.5 acres of forested property on which they created over two miles of pathway and a guided tour so visitors from around the world can enjoy the scenery.  The acquired acreage offers a rock face cliff at the 580ft level of Thunder Mountain where a panoramic view of Juneau awaits visitors.

It was during the reclamation that Steve discovered the trademark botanical design at Glacier Gardens: The Upside-Down Flower Tower tree. Read Steve’s story of this beautiful accident, review the 7 simple steps for planting your own Flower Tower, and send us a picture so we can share your creation with our gardening friends.

The Mendenhall Valley was carved into the towering mountain-sides by the great Mendenhall Glacier, one of the world’s rare drive-up glaciers. During the historic mining days, the valley was mostly a farming community which fed many of the downtown miners. There were dairies, mink farms, vegetable gardens, a chicken farm, and cows and horses strewn throughout the Mendenhall Wetlands located on the banks of the Gastineau Channel. At this time there was only one road connecting downtown Juneau to the valley, named Glacier Highway.  It is on this road you will find Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure.