National Park Spotlight: Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve is located in the Alaska interior in the US. The park is centered on the Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The rocks of the mountain are made of granite which is probably a reason why it is the highest peak in the region since granite is not easily eroded. The park covers an approximate area of 6 million acres with the lowest areas of the park covered by forest. The middle elevation is covered with tundra whereas the highest elevations, at the peaks, are covered with snow, rocks, and glaciers, with the largest glacier being Kahiltna glacier. Part of the vast park is covered with valleys including the McKinley and Toklat valleys.

Mountains reflected in a lake in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Mountains reflected in a lake in Denali National Park, Alaska.

Park History and Establishment

In 1906, an environmental conservationist, Charles Alexander Sheldon came up with the idea of reserving the Denali region to serve as a national park and preserve. He presented his plan to the Boone and Crockett club. The members of the club decided that it was the duty of the Alaskans to approve the establishment of the national preserve. On December 3, 1915, the plan was presented to the then Alaskan delegate, James Wickersham, who after a few consultations approved it. In April 1916, delegate Wickersham took the bill to the Senate. After a long criticism and discussions, the bill was passed in February 1917. It was then signed by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1916.

At its establishment, Denali was called Mount McKinley National Park. The number of visitors to the park gradually increased over the years especially after the first road to access the park was built in 1957. In 1976, the park was listed as an international Biosphere Reserve. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter established a separate Denali National Monument. The name Mount McKinley has received numerous criticisms, especially from the Alaskans. On August 30, 2015, President Obama asked Sally Jewell, the interior secretary to rename the park Denali National Park and Preserve.

Two bears in Alaska enjoying the wilderness
Two bears in Alaska enjoying the wilderness


Denali National Park and Preserve host several activities that are enjoyed by thousands of tourists every year. The number of visitors to the park and preserve has grown rapidly from 5,000 annually at its establishment to over half a million in 2016. During the winter, the visitors take part in dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, and snow matching. Driving around the park and viewing flora and fauna is also a main activity that takes place in Denali. There are numerous species of animals and plants in Denali. Some of the species in the preserve are endemic to the national park. Some of the most popular animals are bears and caribou. Observing the migration of birds and other animals before and during winter is also an activity that largely attracts tourists. Mountain climbing is also commonly done by the visitors of the park. The visitors have an opportunity to set their camps in the park. Furthermore, there are a lot of lodges and resorts that offer accommodation to visitors. There are also a number of shuttles that can take the visitors around the park.


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