RIDING ON THE TUNDRA....

Denali Park Travel Blog

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Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Mount McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America. The park and preserve together cover 9,492 mi² (24,585 km²).

 

    * 1 Overview

    * 2 Wildlife

    * 3 Flora

    * 4 Climate

    * 5 Vehicle access

    * 6 Wilderness

    * 7 Prehistory and Protohistory

          o 7.

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1 Fossils

    * 8 References

    * 9 External links

 

Overview

 

The word "Denali" means "the big one" in the native Athabaskan language and refers to the mountain itself. The mountain was named after president William McKinley of Ohio in 1897 by local prospector William A. Dickey, although McKinley had no connection with the region.

 

Charles Sheldon took an interest in the Dall sheep native to the region, and became concerned that human encroachment may threaten the species. After his 1907-1908 visit, he petitioned the people of Alaska and Congress to create a preserve for the sheep.

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(His account of the visit was published posthumously as The Wilderness of Denali, ISBN 1-56833-152-5). The park was established as Mount McKinley National Park on February 26, 1917. However, only a portion of Mount McKinley (not even including the summit) was within the original park boundary. The park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976. A separate Denali National Monument was proclaimed by Jimmy Carter on December 1, 1978.

 

 

Mount McKinley National Park, whose name had been subject to local criticism from the onset, and Denali National Monument were incorporated and established into Denali National Park and Preserve by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, December 2, 1980.

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At this time the Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain back to "Denali," even though the U.S. Board of Geographic Names maintains "McKinley". Alaskans tend to use "Denali" and rely on context to distinguish between the park and the mountain. The size of the national park is over 6 million acres (24,500 km²), of which 4,724,735.16 acres (19,120 km²) are federally owned. The national preserve is 1,334,200 acres (543 km²), of which 1,304,132 acres (5,278 km²) are federally owned. On December 2, 1980, a 2,146,580 acre (8,687 km²) Denali Wilderness was established within the park.

 

Denali habitat is a mix of forest at the lowest elevations, including deciduous taiga. The preserve is also home to tundra at middle elevations, and glaciers, rock, and snow at the highest elevations.

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Today, the park hosts more than 400,000 visitors who enjoy wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. Wintertime recreation includes dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling where allowed. The national park is located near Denali State Park.

 

Wildlife

 

Denali is home to a variety of Alaskan birds and mammals, including a healthy population of grizzly bears and black bears. Herds of caribou roam throughout the park. Dall sheep are often seen on mountainsides, and moose feed on the aquatic plants of the small lakes and swamps. Despite human impact on the area, Denali accommodates gray wolf dens, both historic and active. Smaller animals, such as hoary marmots, arctic ground squirrels, beavers, pikas, and snowshoe hares are seen in abundance.

DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITAROD
Foxes, martens, lynx, wolverines also inhabit the park, but are more rarely seen due to their elusive natures.

 

The park is also well known for its bird population. Many migratory species reside in the park during late spring and summer. Birdwatchers may find waxwings, Arctic Warblers, pine grosbeaks, and wheatears, as well as Ptarmigan and the majestic tundra swan. Predatory birds include a variety of hawks, owls, and the gyrfalcon, as well as the abundant but striking golden eagle.

 

Ten species of fish, including trout, salmon, and arctic grayling share the waters of the park. Because many of the rivers and lakes of Denali are fed by glaciers, glacial silt and cold temperatures slow the metabolism of the fish, preventing them from reaching normal sizes.

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A single amphibious species, the wood frog, also lives among the lakes of the park.

 

Denali park rangers maintain a constant effort to "keep the wildlife wild" by limiting the interaction between humans and park animals. However, the number of wild bears necessitates their wearing collars to track movements. Feeding animals is strictly forbidden, as it may cause adverse affects on the feeding habits of the creature. Visitors are encouraged to view animals from safe distances. Despite the large concentration of bears in the park, efforts by rangers to educate backpackers and visitors about preventative measures and BRFCs have greatly reduced the number of dangerous encounters. Certain areas of the park are often closed due to uncommon wildlife activity, such as denning areas of wolves and bears or recent kill sites.

These restricted areas may change throughout the year. Through the collective care of park staff and visitors, Denali has become a premier destination for wildlife viewing.

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

 

Flora

 

The Alaska Range, a mountainous expanse running through the entire park, provides interesting ecosystems in Denali. Because the fall line lies as low as 2,500 feet (760 m), wooded areas are rare inside the park, except in the flatter western sections surrounding Wonder Lake, and lowlands of the park where flowing waters melt the frozen ground. Spruces and willows make up the majority of these treed areas. Because of mineral content, ground temperature, and a general lack of soil, areas surrounding the bases of mountains are not suitable for sufficient tree growth, and most trees and shrubs do not reach full size.

 

Having a range of elevations, there is a variety of vegetation zones. From lowest to highest, there is low brush bog, bottomland spruce-poplar forest, upland spruce-hardwood forest, moist tundra, and finally the highest of elevations, alpine tundra.

 

Throughout Denali's history, there has been a patchwork pattern of different plants relying on fire. Because of this, the fire history is too complicated to explain. North of the Alaskan Range, fires are common, occurring when old forests need replacement.

 

Tundra is the predominate ground cover of the park. Layers of topsoil collect on rotten, fragmented rock moved by thousands of years of glacial activity. Mosses, ferns, grasses, and fungi quickly fill the topsoil, and in areas of "wet tundra," tussocks form and may collect algae.

ME :)
Wild blueberries and soap berries thrive in this landscape, and provide the bears of Denali with the main part of their diets.

 

Over 450 species of flowering plants fill the park, and can be viewed in bloom throughout summer. Images of goldenrod, fireweed, lupine, bluebell, and gentian filling the valleys of Denali are often used on postcards and in artwork

 

Climate

 

Climate affects every living organism in Denali. Long winters are followed by short growing seasons. Eighty percent of the bird population returns after cold months,raising their young. In fact, every animal is caring for and teaching their young. Unfortunately, the spring and summer months are short, so they are also a time of preparing for another winter.

WHERE I GOT MY HOT WATER

 

Summers are usually cool and damp, but temperatures in the 70's are not rare. The weather is so unpredictable that there have even been instances of snow in July.

 

The north and south side of the Alaskan Range have a completely different climate. The Gulf of Alaska carries moisture to the south side, but the mountains block water to the north side. This brings a drier climate and huge temperature fluctuations to the north. The south receives transitional maritime continental climates, with moister, cooler summers and warmer winters.

 

Vehicle access

 

The park is serviced by a 91-mile (146 km) road from the George Parks Highway to the mining camp of Kantishna.

BEAR!!!
It runs east to west, north of and roughly parallel to the imposing Alaska Range. Only a small fraction of the road is paved because permafrost and the freeze-thaw cycle create an enormous cost for maintaining the road. Private vehicles are only allowed on the road in early spring and late fall. During the summer, visitors must access the interior of the park through buses operated by concession.

 

Several fully-narrated tours of the park are available, the most popular of which is the Tundra Wilderness Tour. The tours travel from the initial boreal forests through tundra to the Toklat River or Kantishna. A clear view of the mountain is only possible about 20% of the time during the summer, although it is visible more often during the winter. Several portions of the road run alongside sheer cliffs that drop hundreds of feet at the edges, and the extreme conditions prevent construction of guardrails.

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As a result of the danger involved, and because most of the gravel road is only one lane wide, drivers are trained extensively in procedures for navigating the sharp mountain curves, and yielding the right-of-way to opposing buses and park vehicles.

Painting of the heavily glaciated southern part of Denali, looking north-northwest. Mount Foraker is at the left, and Mt. McKinley, purposely drawn on an exaggerated scale, is featured in the center.

Painting of the heavily glaciated southern part of Denali, looking north-northwest. Mount Foraker is at the left, and Mt. McKinley, purposely drawn on an exaggerated scale, is featured in the center.

 

While the main park road goes straight through the middle of the Denali National Park Wilderness, the national preserve and portions of the park not designated wilderness are even more inaccessible.

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There are no roads extending out to the preserve areas, which are on the far west end of the park. The far north of the park, characterized by hills and rivers, is accessed by the Stampede Trail, a dirt road which stops at the park boundary. The very rugged south portion of the park, characterized by enormous glacier filled canyons, is accessed by Petersville Road, a dirt road that stops about 5 miles (8.0 km) outside of the park. The mountains can be accessed most easily by air taxis that land on the glaciers.

 

Wilderness

 

The Denali Wilderness is a wilderness area in the Denali National Park and Preserve. It encompasses the high heart of the Alaska Range, including Mount McKinley, the centerpiece of the wilderness, which comprises about one-third of the national park.

BEAR!!!

 

Denali Wilderness covers the area formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park from 1917 until the park was expanded and renamed in 1980. It is 2,146,580 acres (8,687 km²) in area; the entire park is larger than the state of Massachusetts.

 

Prehistory and Protohistory

 

An immense collection of cultural sites gives more and more clues as to what and who used to live there. Thousand of years ago, grassland was abundant, and mammoths utilized the flat Mammoth Steppe to move and graze. Around 11,000 to 13,500 years ago, these grasslands shrunk and woody shrubs began to appear. Back then, the North-Alaskan Range was predominantly ice free.

 

187 cultural sites tell about Denali's past, eighty-four have prehistoric items.

LITTLE SNOW
Native Americans have lived in this environment for 11,000 years, using every resource the wild provided. The Koyukon, Dena'ina, Athna, Kolchan, Tanana, and Athabaskans are particularly known.

 

 

 

Moose in Alaska

 

Visitors to Alaska are more likely to see moose than any other big game. They may be seen from the highway on a drive between Anchorage and Seward or Anchorage and Denali National Park.

 

Moose closeupHundreds of them are to be found within the Anchorage city limits, especially during the winter when city yards and greenbelts offer better forage than can be found on the snowcovered mountain slopes. Moose are also safer in the city from grizzly bears, though an occasional grizzly bear has been known to wander into town, too.

BEAR!!!

 

The bull moose at right was photographed while resting in a yard just a few blocks from downtown Anchorage. The cow moose above was photographed from an observation platform overlooking a pond at the Eagle River Nature Center, a dozen miles from Anchorage.

 

Moose may be encountered almost anywhere, at any time, but the best time to look for moose in their favored urban haunts such as Kincaid Park or Campbell Airstrip Road in Anchorage is around dusk.

 

They may also be encountered, unexpectedly, by hikers or bicyclers using the city's extensive trail system or cross-country skiing in a city park. Motorists should be watchful for moose on the highway.

 

Other good places to watch for moose, especially in the winter, include the Palmer hay flats and the meadows near Portage.

SLIT

 

Moose are among the wildlife attractions at Denali National Park, though they are not as common a sight there as are caribou.


 

BEARS IN ALASKA


Brown bears (Ursus arctos) occur throughout Alaska except on the islands south of Frederick Sound in southeastern Alaska, the islands west of Unimak in the Aleutian Chain, and the islands of the Bering Sea. They also occur in Canada, Asia, Europe, and in limited numbers in a few western states. Brown bears are very much a part of the Alaska scene and are a favorite topic with most hunters, hikers, photographers, and fishers.

 

General description: Formerly, taxonomists listed brown and grizzly bears as separate species.

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Technically, brown and grizzly bears are classified as the same species, Ursus arctos. Brown bears on Kodiak Island are classified as a distinct subspecies from those on the mainland because they are genetically and physically isolated. The shape of their skulls also differs slightly.

 

The term �brown bear� is commonly used to refer to the members of this species found in coastal areas where salmon is the primary food source. Brown bears found inland and in northern habitats are often called �grizzlies.� In this paper, brown bear is used to refer to all members of Ursus arctos.

 

The brown bear resembles its close relative the black bear, Ursus americanus. The brown bear, however, is usually larger, has a more prominent shoulder hump, less prominent ears, and longer, straighter claws.

BEAR!!!
Both the prominent hump and the long claws of the brown bear are adaptations that are related to feeding behavior. The long claws are useful in digging for roots or excavating burrows of small mammals. The musculature and bone structure of the hump are adaptations for digging and for attaining bursts of speed necessary for capture of moose or caribou for food. Color is not a reliable key in differentiating these bears because both species have many color phases. Black bears, for example, occur in many hues of brown, and even shades of blue and white. Brown bear colors range from dark brown through light blond.

 

Bear weights vary depending on the time of year. Bears weigh the least in the spring or early summer. They gain weight rapidly during late summer and fall and are waddling fat just prior to denning.

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At this time most mature males weigh between 500 and 900 pounds (180-410 kg) with extremely large individuals weighing as much as 1,400 pounds (640 kg). Females weigh half to three-quarters as much. An extremely large brown bear may have a skull 18 inches long (46 cm) and 12 inches wide (30 cm). Such a bear, when standing on its hind feet, is about 9 feet (2.7 m) tall. Inland bears are usually smaller than coastal bears, probably because they do not have a readily available supply of protein-rich food, such as salmon, in their diet.

 

Brown bears have been known to live 34 years in the wild, though this is rare. Usually, old males may reach 22 years. Old females may live to 26. Brown bears have an especially good sense of smell and under the right conditions may be able to detect odors more than a mile distant.

WOW
Their hearing and eyesight are probably equivalent to that of humans. When bears stand upright, it is not to get ready to charge but to test the wind and to see better.

 

Life history: Mating takes place from May through July with the peak of activity in early June. Brown bears generally do not have strong mating ties. Individual bears are rarely seen with a mate for more than a week. Males may mate with more than one female during breeding season. The hairless young, weighing less than a pound, are born the following January or February in a winter den. Litter size ranges from one to four cubs, but two is most common. Offspring typically separate from their mothers as 2-year olds in May or June. Following separation, the mother can breed again and produce a new litter of cubs the following year.

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In some parts of Alaska, research results reveal that offspring may not separate from their mothers until they are 3 to 5 years old. This appears to be most common in areas where food is scarce. In some of these areas, females may skip one to three years before producing new litters.

 

Bear populations vary depending on the productivity of the environment. In areas of low productivity, such as on Alaska�s North Slope, studies have revealed bear densities as low as one bear per 300 square miles. In areas teeming with easily available food, such as Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska, densities as high as one bear per square mile have been found. In central Alaska, both north and south of the Alaska Range, bear densities tend to be intermediate, about one bear per 15-23 square miles.

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These are average figures which shouldn�t be interpreted to mean that each bear has this much territory for its exclusive use. The area occupied by any individual bear may overlap that used by many other individuals.

 

Safety: All brown bears should be treated with respect and can be safely observed only from a distance of at least 100 yards. This is especially true for family groups of a female and her offspring as mother bears are very protective towards their young. Bears protecting a food source, such as the buried carcass of a moose or caribou, should also be treated with special caution. In bear country, campers can best avoid conflicts with bears if they minimize food odors, store their food out of a bear�s reach and away from their camp, and avoid camping on bear travel routes.

PEACE

 

Food habits: Like humans, brown bears consume a wide variety of foods. Common foods include berries, grasses, sedges, horsetails, cow parsnips, fish, ground squirrels, and roots of many kinds of plants. In some parts of Alaska, brown bears have been shown to be capable predators of newborn moose and caribou. They can also kill and consume healthy adults of these species and domestic animals. Bears are fond of all types of carrion as well as garbage in human dumps.

 

Except for females with offspring and breeding animals, bears are typically solitary creatures and avoid the company of other bears. Exceptions to this occur where food sources are concentrated such as streams where bears can catch salmon swimming upstream to spawn. At McNeil River Falls, the largest concentration of brown bears occurs annually.

TREES
Biologists have observed more than 60 bears at one time, attracted by spawning salmon.

 

Winter dormancy: In the winter when food is unavailable or scarce, most Alaska brown bears enter dens and hibernate through the winter. While in this state, their body temperatures, heart rate, and other metabolic rates are reduced. Their need for food and water is eliminated. In northern areas with long hard winters, bears may spend from 5 to 7 ½ months in dens. In areas with relatively warmer winters, such as Kodiak Island, a few bears may stay active all winter. Pregnant females are usually the first to enter dens in the fall. These females, with their newborn cubs, are the last to exit dens. Adult males, on the other hand, appear to enter dens later and emerge earlier than most other bears.

MOOSE!!!!

 

Hunting: Bear hunting is popular in Alaska and, with proper management, can occur without causing populations to decline. Bear hunting seasons are held in both spring and fall in some areas but only in fall in other areas. Cubs and females with offspring may not be killed. Bear meat should be thoroughly cooked to prevent contracting trichinosis, a parasitic disease that may be fatal to man.

 

Hunters should examine bears closely with binoculars before shooting to determine if the pelt has spots where the hair has been rubbed away. Such rubbed spots result in a poorer quality hide. A little extra time spent observing a bear before shooting may also prevent the hunter from taking a female that has cubs hidden nearby. An excellent guide to judging trophy brown bears and distinguishing between sexes of bears is the Take a Closer Look video which is available for viewing at most Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices.

MOOSE!!!!

 

Research and conservation: Because Alaska contains over 98 percent of the United States population of brown bears, and more than 70 percent of the North American population, it has a special responsibility for this large carnivore. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is responsible for managing bears in Alaska and for ensuring that management is based on scientific knowledge of the biology of bear populations. Important components of this management effort include maintaining healthy populations of bears throughout Alaska, conservation of bear habitat, prevention of overharvest, and conducting the studies necessary to understand population requirements. As Alaska continues to develop, it is increasingly important for the public to recognize that conserving sufficient amounts of habitat is necessary for brown bears to continue to thrive in Alaska.

MOOSE!!!!

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DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
BEST SUBS IN ALASKA
BEST SUBS IN ALASKA
ME :)
ME :)
WHERE I GOT MY HOT WATER
WHERE I GOT MY HOT WATER
BEAR!!!
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ME AND MUM :)
ME AND MUM :)
BEAR!!!
BEAR!!!
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BEAR!!!
LITTLE SNOW
LITTLE SNOW
BEAR!!!
BEAR!!!
SLIT
SLIT
I WANT TO MOVE HERE
I WANT TO MOVE HERE
BEAR!!!
BEAR!!!
LOVE IT
LOVE IT
WOW
WOW
I <3 AK
I <3 AK
QUIET
QUIET
PEACE
PEACE
TREES
TREES
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
MOUNTAINS
MOUNTAINS
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDITA…
DOG KENNEL AND SCHOOL OF THE IDIT…
STILLNESS
STILLNESS
OUR HOTEL
OUR HOTEL
BUS!!!!
BUS!!!!
WHERE WE GET OUR WHITE WATER RAFTI…
WHERE WE GET OUR WHITE WATER RAFT…
OUR BUS
OUR BUS
LOVELY
LOVELY
DRY
DRY
BARE
BARE
BRIGHT
BRIGHT
GRASSY
GRASSY
CUB BUM
CUB BUM
CUB BUM
CUB BUM
CLEAR
CLEAR
PINE CONE
PINE CONE
BUMPY
BUMPY
PINE CONE
PINE CONE
BEAR!!!
BEAR!!!
OPEN
OPEN
CUB
CUB
ROLLING
ROLLING
BRANCHY
BRANCHY
SNOWY
SNOWY
PERFECT
PERFECT
WOW
WOW
BEAR?!?!!?
BEAR?!?!!?
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MOOSE!!!!
MUDDY
MUDDY
LOVE IT
LOVE IT
DAWN
DAWN
ROADS
ROADS
PATH
PATH
SKY
SKY
DRFT
DRFT
ROUGH
ROUGH
DEPTH
DEPTH
BEAR!!!
BEAR!!!
Denali Park
photo by: NomadNate