Denali National Park

Jessica in Denali National Park.
Denali National Park is one of the oldest parks in the United States. It is also the first national park to be created in Alaska and the first park made to preserve wildlife worldwide. Denali was originally named Mount McKinley National Park. McKinley was founded in 1917. The park and North America's tallest peak were named after former senator and later president of the United States William McKinley. Some of the reasons that the park was established was to preserve the area’s game and its natural scenery . In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) enlarged the park by four million acres making it a total of six million acres. It was also renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali is the name the Athabaskan natives called the massive peak. Denali means “the High One.” 

A Grey Wolf in Denali National Park. 
Spotted from the HOM van as we drove into the park.
Charles Sheldon, a gentleman hunter, was one of the first to start pushing for the area to be a park. He worked hard for the area to be a park for over a decade. He also believed that it should be named Denali. Denali contains a diverse wildlife. There are 39 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, 14 species of fish, and one species of amphibian known in Denali. Thankfully, there are no reptiles in Denali. Some of the mammals living in Denali are wolves, bears, golden eagles, elk, moose, caribou and the protected dall sheep. Humans have also been a part of this area and environment for more that 11,000 years. Because of this park and preserve resources  have been utilized by at least five different Athabaskan groups for the last several hundred years. Being able to visit Denali was one of the things I was most excited about when it came to our adventure.

Our groups time at Denali National Park exceeded my expectations. We stayed there for four days and three night. While we were there we stayed in wood framed tents that had two bunk beds in them.  The only bad thing about the tents was that they were made out of white canvas so it made it very bright inside. It was hard to fall asleep considering it gets dark in Alaska for only about two hours a night during the summer. We had to wake up early every morning for breakfast and it was so cold that we would dress in the clothes we wanted to wear the next day because we didn't want to freeze. There was also no running water or electricity there but I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. The view everywhere we went was breathtaking. The mountains were so magnificent. The animals we saw there were also pretty amazing. We saw two wolves, two bears, two bear cubs and over a dozen Dall Sheep. 

Everyday that we were there we would go out into the field. They put us into two groups so that we wouldn't make as large an impact on the land and animals. It was a great experience because the people who would lead our groups worked at or with Denali National Park and Preserve. One of my favorite days at the park was when we went out into Denali with a woman named Pat Owen. She's the Park's bear specialist and she knows everything when it comes to the bears and tracking them in the park. Also, on the same day, we went out with the Park's newest Archeologist. We actually found a 10,000 year old Native Alaskan artifact while on our walk with her. That was the best part of our Denali experience in my opinion. I would love to one day go back to see and explore Denali. I can't wait!!

Jessica Landry

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