Portage Glacier was a local name first recorded in 1898 by Thomas Corwin Mendenhall of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, so called because it is on a portage route between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm. Hundreds of years ago the glacier filled the entire Portage Valley, a distance of 14 miles, and was connected to what are now five separate glaciers.
The Begich/Boggs Visitor Center was built by the U.S. Forest Service in 1986. However, the glacier can no longer be viewed from there. A boat ride across the lake is required to view the glacier. Commercial boat tours are available.
Portage Glacier is located adjacent to Turnagain Arm, 50 miles southeast of downtown Anchorage. Road access is via the Seward Highway to the former town of Portage, which was flooded and subsequently vacated following the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The Portage Glacier Road runs 6 miles (9.7 km), mostly past USFS campgrounds, to the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. The main road used to end here, but now continues eastward, leading to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and to Whittier