Thursday, June 21, 2007

Denali National Park

We arrived at the visitor center about 8:45 and left on our tour at 9:00. We had selected the Fish Creek tour which took us about 60 miles into the park and back. We were on “school” busses, but the seats were a little better than the regular bench seats. People can only drive about 15 miles into the park in their own vehicles. Beyond that you have to be on a tour bus.

The sky was completely clear and the driver stopped at the first place we could see Mt. McKinley or Denali. (It is still legally named Mt. McKinley but everyone here prefers to call it Denali. Denali means “tall one” in Athabascan, a native language. The naming of McKinley was done by some local businessman when McKinley was running for president and supported the gold standard the businessman wanted enacted. He was subsequently elected president, but few people think he deserves to have the tallest mountain in North America named for him.)

Over 80 percent of the people who come here do not see the top of the mountain. We had a perfectly clear view, although from quite a distance. By later in the day it was completely obscured but we got our sighting.

The scenery on the trip was very beautiful and grand, but the real goal of the trip was to see wildlife. We saw a porcupine, a caribou, several grizzly bears including cubs, lots of Dall Sheep with their lambs, squirrels, snowshoe hares, and most rare, a black wolf. I will include photos of all we have, but most were very far away and were taken with maximum telephoto. I do not have photos of the two close encounters, the porcupine and the wolf. They moved too quickly into the brush and there were people in my way when I had a good view of them. If you really want to see what these animals look like, go to a zoo. You will have a much better viewing opportunity. If you want to see them living in their natural habitat from a great distance then you will enjoy coming to Denali. I wish the photos were better, and they were in real life with binoculars. My camera just does not have a great telephoto lens.

Dall Sheep


Grizzly Bear with 2 cubs

We had to take our own food and drink as there is nothing available out in the park. Everything must be eaten on the bus as you are bouncing along since you are not allowed to take any food off the bus at the rest stops. We finally returned to the visitor center at 5:00 PM. The trip was 8 hours over mostly rough, dusty dirt roads in a bouncy school bus. We were all worn out but enjoyed the trip.


  1. Very nice but those Dall sheep sure look like Grizzly bears. ;)

  2. Where did you go potty? There is no way I could hold it for 8 hours.

  3. I was thinking the grizzly bears look like Dall sheep.

    It's both a blessing and a curse that you can't drive into the park, isn't it? The fact that it's so well protected is why it's still so pristine. But it does limit your experience. Fortunately, the mountains are so grand, you can enjoy them from a distance.

  4. I'm glad they restrict travel in the park. It remains almost pristine, with very little impact of humans on the wilderness.

    Since I was in Alaska in 1970, Fairbanks has grown into a city, Anchorage has grown into a bigger city, but Denali is still almost exactly the same (except for the unofficial name change, of course).

    Did you ever figure out if those were pictures of sheep or bears?

  5. Sorry everyone. Guess I was too tire to proof my work last night. Now the sheep are sheep. Most of them were up on the mountains but these three were down in the river valley, probably migrating.

    Heather, we had rest stops ever hour and a half where they had outhouses or chemical toilets available for us. No water, just hand sanitizer.

  6. Daryl, the actual name of the park did change in 1980, but the mountain itself remains officially Mt. McKinley. Prior to 1980 it was called Mt. McKinley National Park. It was originally formed to protect the Dall Sheep, not to preserve the wilderness area around the mountain. In fact the park did not even include the whole mountain. In 1980 that changed and the park was enlarged to encompass a much larger area. It is now over 6 million acres which is larger than Massachusetts. The official name was changed at the same time to Denali National Park and Nature Preserve.