I found this quote about Denali and found it strikingly prescient. I wanted to share it with you:
"Mt. McKinley National Park will always be unique and in a class by itself. It will never be over-run with the hordes of automobiles of the campers that are beginning to detract from the enjoyment of many of the other great national parks. Although the number of its visitors will increase annually as its fame spreads abroad, its isolation will always prevent it from becoming the Mecca of the jitney fleets and the crowds of summer campers, and will preserve it for the true lovers of nature and those who appreciate the primitive."
-George Lingo, Farthest North Collegian vol. VII #3
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Kantishna in Denali National Park is set in the midst of thousands upon thousands of acres of wild blueberry bushes. In July, the blueberries were amazingly abundant. They are so different than the blueberries you buy at the supermarket. They are smaller, tarter, and much more flavorful.
Fondest memory: Cooking is a favorite hobby of mine (and my husband's), and so I know that the key to great cooking is using the best and freshest ingredients. When I saw all the blueberries around me, I had to take some home with me. (The birds, bears and caribou won't be deprived - there are far more berries there than the wildlife can consume.) So I set out on our last full day to pick a bushel (or less). Picking these berries is tedious. I had to wear my anti-mosquito garb, and it took me about 2 hours to fill up 3 water bottles. However, it was worth it. I carted them home on the plane, made a wild blueberry sauce for a baked Alaska with one cup, made wild blueberry muffins with another cup and froze the rest. The sauce and muffins were so very tasty - definitely a cut above what I would have made with California supermarket ingredients.
Favorite thing: Before I arrived in Denali, I pictured deep canyons with narrow valleys. I learned upon arriving that my expectations were all wrong. Every thing is bigger, wider and taller than I imagined. Mountains are tallest. Valleys are widest. But rivers are not deepest. They are very shallow and are a lattice-work of meandering streams on a flat silty wide river bed. The ground is frozen almost all of the time, and therefore, water cannot cut deep gorges like it can in other parts of the world.
Favorite thing: This beautiful flower is abundant all over Alaska. It is edible - the blossoms can be thrown on top of a salad for a vibrant accent. As those living in the state will tell you, the flower blooms from the bottom up. When the top of the flower blooms it means summer is almost over. One of our guides said, "I don't like to see that." Summer is so short in Alaska.
Favorite thing: Our bus driver pointed this sight out to us on the ride into the park. As you may know, glacially-fed rivers are "dirty" looking because of all the silt carried with it, while spring-fed rivers are much cleaner looking. In this picture, you can see two rivers coming together, one glacially-fed, and one spring-fed.
Mount McKinley is so overpowering that some visitors seem surprised to learn that there is so much more to Denali National Park and Preserve than just the mountain - as impressive as it is. The expansive landscape of Denali encompases three distinct units. They are:
Denali Wilderness, includes most of the former Mount McKinley National Park. This is basically undeveloped wilderness parkland, except for the single road which brings tourists 85 miles through the wilderness to Wonder Lake, with few amenities along the way.
Denali National Park additions, established in 1980. In this area customary and traditional subsistence uses are allowed by local residents. This recognizes the longstanding dependence on wildlife, fish, and plant materials for subsistence in rural Alaska.
Denali National Preserve allows subsistence uses and also allows sport hunting, trapping, and fishing under Alaska Fish and Game regulations. There are two such perserve areas.
Denali National Park and Preserve is a vast and diverse land, rich in wildlife, and offering almost unlimited possibilities to the outdoor and wilderness enthusiast.
In addition to Mount McKinley, there are several other very impressive peaks in Denali National Park. In this photo, taken from the banks of the Susitna River near Talkeetna, you can see Mount McKinley on the right - 20,320feet; Mount Hunter, 14,573 feet is in the center, and Mount Foraker, 17,400 feet, is on the left. Other notable peaks in the Alaska Ranger include:
Mount Hayes - 13,852 feet
Mount Silverthorne - 13,220 feet
Mount Deborah - 12,339 feet
Mount Huntington - 12,240 feet
The Alaska Range arches about 600 miles altogether, dividing Alaska's coastal regions from the tundra prairies of the interior. This range of icy peaks and extensive glaciers has some of the worst weather in the world, since it forms a barrier between the relatively warm and damp Pacific air and the frozen interior.
The mountains are beautiful to behold from a distance, but only experienced and well equipped mountaineers, preferably with a local guide, should venture onto these potentially deadly slopes.
Only plants adapted to long, bitterly cold winters and short growing seasons can survive in the subarctic wilderness of Denali. Permafrost underlies much of the park, and only a thin layer of topsoil thaws each summer to support the life. Even so, more than 630 species of flowering plants grow here, as well as many types of mosses, lichens, fungi and others.
There are two major plant associations in the park, taiga and tundra. Taiga is a Russian word for the northern evergreen forest and describes the scant tree growth here near the Arctic Circle. The limit of tree growth occurs at about 2,700 feet in Denali, so much of the park is above the timber line.
The area above tree line but below the glaciers and permanent ice fields is tundra, a fascinating world of dwarfed shrubs and miniaturized wildflowers adapted to a short growing season. Above 7,200 feet the only plants are lichens and mosses, on the slopes not permanently covered with ice.
Numerous glaciers, rivers of ice, slowly creak down the slopes of Mount McKinley and surrounding peaks. Some seem to be literally frozen in time, while others have been known to flow at a rate of 10 inches per minute. Twenty of the McKinley glaciers are longer than 5 miles, and six of them are 25 miles or longer. These are:
Kahiltna Glacier - 43 miles
Muldrow Glacier - 40 miles
Ruth Glacier - 35 miles
Yuenta-Laeuna Glacier - 32 miles
Eldridge Glacier - 30 miles
Tokositna Glacier - 25 miles
Kahiltna and Muldrow Glaciers are used as pathways by climbers trecking their way up the mountain using sleds and skis. Tourists can hire a private airplane to take them for a glacier landing, using a ski-equipped light plane. I chose rather to view the glaciers from above in a flightseeing trip over and around Mount McKinley.
Glaciers of Denali National Park
Most of Denali National Park and Preserve is a roadless wilderness. A single road penetrates 85 miles into the park from the entrance off Alaska Hwy. 3. However, private vehicles are only allowed to drive the first 15 miles of this road. From there one must take a tour bus to travel further.
Even without taking the bus, there is much to be seen in those first 15 miles. Along this stretch I have sighted moose, grizzlys and other wildlife. Also in these 15 miles are two campgrounds, the Savage Patrol Cabin, a Visitor Center, and a few short hiking trails. Still, if you have time, it is definitely worth it to park your car and take the bus deeper into the park.
Park entry fees are 10 $ per family and 5 $ per person, good for seven days. An annual pass is available for 15 $. Prices of the tours are in Must See Activities.
Denali Park Resorts
241 West Ship Creek Ave.,
Anchorage, AK 99501
Favorite thing: Pick up the Alpenglow, a free visitor's guide to Denali National Park and Preserve. They can be found at hotels, restaurants, Vistor's Center and around the shops just outside the park entrance. Provides info on shuttle and tour buses, maps, park regulations, facilities and services, animals, warnings, campgrounds and offers suggestions on what to do depending on your length of stay.
This is a great website for information about Denali National Park. This is not an "official " website and is not associated with the National Park Service, but it will answer most of your questions. Please call the National Park to confirm shuttle times and the availability of campgrounds.
Here is a link to the offical NPS website for Denali National Park: http://www.nps.gov/dena/
Favorite thing: If you're like herzog63 or Dave21, you can fairly subsist on fish alone in the Denali Wilderness for weeks on end. Fish eggs and live bait are prohibited, but given good flies or lures and plenty of line, there are countless clear streams through the Wilderness zone (i.e. a specifically designated area that includes most of the park) in which to find arctic grayling. A state license is not required to fish in this zone (sport fishing excepted). Otherwise, keep your eyes on the line and your ear to the woods, and as always keep a clean camp and dispose of remnants properly.
Favorite thing: At over six million acres (when including the preserve where hunting is permitted), Denali is among the largest national parks in the system. Conversely, its half-million annual visitors make this among the least visited parks, yet developers are lining its perimeter with manmade excrescences. At the entrance, near the enclave known as Canyon on the Parks Highway, and around the Kantishna area (on state lands), new developments mean the grading of virgin wilderness for new roads and the gradual erosion of the park's pristine appearance.
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