Wilderness refers to protected areas where nature is allowed to take its course, and human interference is kept at an extreme minimum. In the wilderness, man is a visitor, and the federal government is responsible for keeping these areas in their primeval state without permanent changes or human occupation. The wilderness regions in the United States total more than 700 in number occupy 4.5% of the land surface within the US. The five largest wilderness areas in the US are all found in the state of Alaska.
Largest Wilderness Areas in the US
Wrangell–Saint Elias Wilderness
This is the most expansive wilderness region of the US and is found in southwestern Alaska. The wilderness covers an area of about 14,185.4 square miles and lies within the biggest national park in the US, Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park. The expansive wilderness is home to many species of both plants and animals including bison, grizzly bears, beavers, and mountain goats.
Mollie Beattie Wilderness
The Mollie Beattie covering an area of 12,500 square miles is the second largest wilderness in the US. It is located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and it occupies about 40% of the refuge found in the region of Alaska. The Arctic and alpine ecosystem of the Mollie Beattie is home to moose, polar bears, and numerous aquatic animals including whales and seals.
Gates of the Arctic Wilderness
The Gates of the Arctic is the third largest wilderness in the US extending over 11,198.7 square miles. It is also located in the state of Alaska and includes the John River and the Alatna River among others. Backpacking on its trails is a popular pastime within this wilderness although hikers are advised to be wary of bears that inhabit this wilderness.
The Noatak wilderness is the fourth largest wilderness in the US and is part of the Noatak National Preserve. It borders the Gate of The Arctic wilderness in Alaska. Occupying an area of 9,008.5 square miles the Noatak combined with the Gate of the Arctic Wilderness is more than 6.5 million hectares thereby protecting the Noatak River, the largest undisturbed river basin in all of America.
The fifth largest wilderness in the US is the Katmai Wilderness, also in Alaska, and covers an area of 5,288. square miles. The Katmai area is home to an abundance of active volcanoes and huge lakes that form habitats for several animals including brown bears, moose, and caribou. The Katmai wilderness is part of the Katmai National Park which remains unexplored by humans.
Conservation of Wilderness Areas
The US regards its wilderness regions as sanctuaries that preserve natural fauna and flora and tries to eliminate the threat of human interference. The wilderness areas of the United States are invaluable natural resources for the federal government. These areas are preserved for purposes of wildlife conservation, and the US continues its effort which has extended to international partnerships with other countries to streamline communication aimed at increased efforts to preserve these wilderness regions.