Inspired by the splendor of the Toklat River, naturalist Charles Sheldon spent almost 10 years lobbying for legislation to establish the first national park in Alaska. In 1917 it was created with the name Mount McKinley after U.S. President William McKinley though McKinley never visited the mountain, or even Alaska, In 1975 the state of Alaska would rename it as Denali or “the High One,” the native Athabaskan name for the majestic peak. The federal government still continued to call it Mount McKinley National Park until in 2015 President Obama approved the change at a federal level.
Much of our knowledge about the behavior of wolves comes directly from Denali National Park. Adolf Murie studied the relationship between predator and prey and discovered wolves are an essential part of the ecosystems in Denali. Their inclination to target weak prey facilitated keeping the overall prey population healthy.
Denali National Park and Preserve is 9,492.23 square miles in size, larger than the state of New Hampshire and larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon combined. The lowest point in the park is 200 feet (at the Yentna River boundary) and the highest point is 20,320 feet (at the peak of Mount McKinley). There are approximately 12,206 lakes and ponds in Denali and 18,679 miles of streams. Glaciers cover 17 percent of the park’s land area, and the deepest measured glacier is Ruth Glacier, at 3,805 feet. The surface ice of Ruth Glacier moves about 3 feet per day.
The Denali Park Road can only be used by official shuttle buses, unless you enter and win the Denali “Road Lottery,” which grants entry to 400 cars during a four-day window in September. Every year on the second weekend after Labor Day, Denali hosts the lottery, allowing winners to purchase a pass to drive as much of the Park Road as weather allows in one day. However, you view the park it is one the most spectacular parks in the world to explore.
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