Denali National Park
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 by local
prospector William A. Dickey, although McKinley had no
connection with the region. The name is only used by those
outside of Alaska. 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. The park was established as
Mount McKinley National Park on February 26, 1917. However, only
a portion of Mount McKinley 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. 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, of which 4,724,735.16 acres are
federally owned. The national preserve is 1,334,200 acres, of
which 1,304,132 acres are federally owned. On December 2, 1980,
a 2,146,580 acre 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.
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. 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
P.O. Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755-0009