Bering River starts at the terminus of the Bering Glacier and flows southwest about 20 miles (32 km) to Controller Bay, about 63 miles (102 km) west of Cape Yakutaga and 58 miles (94 km) southeast of Cordova, Alaska. The river was inexplicably named “Rio de Lagartos” (River of Lizards) in July 1779, by Don Ignacio Arteaga. George Davidson, of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, called it “Chilkaht” in the 1869 Coast Pilot, for the Chilkat subdivision of Tlingit Indians. The current name, after the glacier, was first reported in 1903 by G.C. Martin, of the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Bering Glacier is the largest and longest glacier in continental North America, with an area of approximately 1,998 square miles (517,500 ha), and a length of 118 miles (190 km). The name commemorates Vitus Bering, a Dane in the service of Russian under Peter the Great, and as leader of an official voyage of exploration, he was credited with the discovery of Alaska. His first landfall was made in this area in July 1741. The glacier is located on the Malaspina Coastal Plain and is bounded to the north by the St. Elias Mountains and to the south by the Gulf of Alaska. The Bering Glacier is also the largest surging glacier in America, having surged at least five times during the 20th century. The glacial meltwater drains into ice-marginal lakes, the largest being Vitus Lake in the south and Berg Lake in the north. The Seal River drains Vitus Lake into the Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering River drains Berg Lake into Controller Bay.
The Bering River is the site of a coalfield with an estimated 35 to 65 million tons of recoverable coal. The potential development of the Bering River coalfield has created a century-long battle between conservationists and developers such as the Guggenheim-Morgan Alaska Syndicate in the early 1900s, and today there are Korean interests. Learn more about the coal fields here. Explore more of the Bering River and Controller Bay here: