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Caribou Autumn Tundra Denali National Park Alaska

Caribou Autumn Tundra Denali National Park Alaska (Nature)

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Tags: autumn (100 pics), alaska (138 pics)

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).

The word "Denali" means "the high one" in the native Athabaskan language and refers to the mountain itself. The mountain was named after president William McKinley of Ohio in 1897 (122 years ago) by local prospector William A. Dickey, although McKinley had no connection with the region.

Charles Alexander Sheldon took an interest in the Dall sheep native to the region, and became concerned that human encroachment might threaten the species. After his 1907-1908 visit, he petitioned the people of Alaska and Congress to create a preserve for the sheep. (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 Feb. 26, 1917 (102 years ago). 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 (43 years ago). A separate Denali National Monument was proclaimed by Jimmy Carter on dec. 1, 1978 (41 years ago).

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, dec. 2, 1980 (39 years ago). 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 dec. 2, 1980 (39 years ago), a 2,146,580 acre (8,687 km²) Denali Wilderness was established within the park. The national park is located near Denali State 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. 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.

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 (11 pics) dens, both historic and active. Smaller animals, such as hoary marmots, arctic ground squirrels, beavers, pikas, and snowshoe hares are seen in abundance. 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. 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.


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