Cornforth Images

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is located in Interior Alaska and contains Mount McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft (6,200 m). Denali, the “High One,” is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600-mile-long Alaska Range. The vertical relief of the mountain is 18,000 ft (5,500 m) rising above the surrounding taiga and tundra. The park entrance is 237 highway miles (380 km) north of Anchorage and 125 miles (200 km) south of Fairbanks. On a clear day, Mount McKinley can be seen due north of Anchorage. In 1908, Charles Sheldon described in his journal the idea of a park that would allow visitors to enjoy the beauty he saw while visiting Alaska and in 1917 his vision became reality.

From the Alaska Range’s perpetually snow covered flanks glaciers flow radially, spilling out of the mountains like ribbons of ice. Tundra expanses dotted with small lakes and ponds, remnants of a glacier covered landscape, cover most of the parks lower regions. Large turbid glacial rivers, run in wide, braided floodplains with clear water streams flowing in from lower tundra covered hills north to the Yukon River or south to the Susitna River. At lower elevations in the park the boreal forest, a mixed spruce forest with aspen and birch, winds its way up into valleys and along river corridors.

Denali National Park 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. Denali also accommodates gray wolf dens. Smaller animals, such as hoary marmots, arctic ground squirrels, beavers, pikas, and snowshoe hares are seen in abundance. Many migratory bird species reside in the park during late spring and summer.

Some of the best locations for landscape photography in Denali National Park include the areas immediately around the Wonder Lake campground, Polychrome Pass, Highway Pass near the Eilson Visitor center, and the Kahiltna Glacier basecamp. The easiest way to access these areas is via the shuttle bus that runs between the park entrance and Wonder Lake or via an airplane equipped with skies from the town of Talkeetna.

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