Otto Lake Rainbow

The Fleeting Beauty of Alaska: Rainbows

Alaska, Photo Essay
Rainbow at Otto Lake Alaska

Otto Lake

Stopped on a mountain pass

We stare at an afternoon rainbow

burning an arc

into green tundra

…drive over there

tourists murmur

find the pot of gold


from tundra

in Indian voices

and along rainbow colors

in Eskimo

out of swirling clouds

in Aleut

and booming in a wind 

of Russian

the Great Land’s reply rings round

you are

you are already

you are alreay in

the Pot of Gold!

~Touring Alaska – a poem by John S. Allen (see footnote)

Rainbows of Alaska

The beauty of Alaska is tenacious and relentless – it never lets up. Going anywhere in the Great Land – whether by foot, car, boat or plane – brings the traveler in constant contact with spectacular landscapes. This is a place of superlative natural beauty.

But there are moments, I call them fleeting moments, when Alaska goes from awesome to mind-blowing. These moments don’t last long (thus the moniker “fleeting”), but during that instant, Alaska is transformed into something heavenly. One of the most powerful of these fleeting moments: rainbows.

I have no hard data to back this up, but Alaska has more rainbows than anywhere on earth. Hours of horizontal summer light and frequent rainy days make this a rainbow breeding ground. Rainbows rarely seem to last long, but in the fleeting moment that they exist, they are transformational. Rainbows are just as likely as bears or moose to create a traffic jam, as tourists and locals alike pull over and take photos.

Take the rainbow in the photo below:

Rainbow over the Denali Park Road

While driving into a blinding sun and trying to see through my drizzle and bug smeared windshield, I looked into my rearview mirror and slammed on the brakes. What was merely a ho-hum drive through the pot of gold was suddenly enhanced by this perfect rainbow. I took a couple of photos before the arc vanished into nothing, departing seemingly as quickly as it formed. When I got back into my car to drive off, another motorist sped by, oblivious to the magic that had just transpired. I believe I am the only person to have seen it. The Great Land made this rainbow for me.

Alaska Rainbow Photo Gallery


Footnote: John S. Allen is a retired tour bus driver, world traveler and poet. He is Denali’s most interesting man. He is famous locally for jogging and picking up trash, and there is a John Allen Clean-Up Day in his honor each year where the community picks up trash and then has a big party. You can buy his book of poems here. He is also the source behind Bear Spray Story #1. 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

28 thoughts on “The Fleeting Beauty of Alaska: Rainbows”

  1. TheRecipeHunter says:

    Beautiful photos and your post is so timely as I head to the airport right now for my flight to Anchorage. I only wonder what fleeting moments are in store for me during my stay!

    • Let’s see: Northern Lights, autumn colors (but you better hurry – they are starting to fade!), probably rainbows, maybe fresh snow on the peaks or trees. Have a great time on your trip!

    • Ah yes, I guess the volume of photos might be evidence. Maybe I can get a grant from the U.S. government to study this. They tend to waste money rather senselessly. I either want less waste and corruption, or more opportunity to participate in it.

  2. Wow! I have run out of words for your amazing photos Jeff. That lead shot with the reflection is absolutely stunning. Go work for National Geographic will you?

    • Thanks Sue, I’ll apply and list you as a reference. That rainbow lasted about 2 hours. After a softball game in Healy, I drove past it 20 miles to my house, got my camera, returned (waiting very patiently in road construction both ways) and when I got back it was still there. It was pretty amazing. Cars were pulled over on the highway getting photos, but my local knowledge led me to the lake and that shot. I was both lucky and determined to get it.

      • i love these photos, I lived in Alaska for 40 years. there is no other place like it.. I miss the mountains, and the lakes. I have a lot of friends there, mark and heather ad their 2 children heather is my gradaughter. phyllis Robertson a beloved daughter in law, heathers mother. Richard and tammie are my son and daughter, jeff Christenson a grandson. and I knew a lot of duplicate bridge players in Wasilla and in anchorage. I have limited use of my hands so write type with one finger. Richards son lee… I miss you all…… Jackie Wilson, nee Wilson, Jamison, Robertson.. de long,,,,,lol

  3. I can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t sound dumb. “Wow – look at those rainbows!” Etc. Then again, maybe that reaction speaks volumes.

    Never seen anything quite like it, and to put them all together – wow. Look at those rainbows.

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