Incomplete record. 3,030 sq. mi. of subarctic wilderness, on N slope of Alaska Range, extends SW from Nenana River, E of Mount Healy, to Mount Russell; it includes Denali, highest peak on North American continent.
Denali National Park and Preserve is six million acres of protected land. Unlike most National Parks there is only one road into the park and the road dead ends. Also visitors are only permitted to drive 15 miles into the park. To proceed further one must be on foot, bike, or take one of the busses into the park.
There are two types of busses that run in Denali. There are tour busses and shuttle busses. Both cover the same ground and both stop for wildlife viewing, however the tour busses have in-depth commentary the entire trip.
Denali host many popular wildlife attraction of Alaska and is composed mostly of mountain and alpine tundra. While the park is named after the mountain there is no road to Denali the mountain. To get to the Denali the mountain one must fly on an airplane with one of the three approved air taxis holding a park concession (we recommend Sheldon Air Service) and have a climbing permit and be well versed in glacier travel or hire a registered guide.
Wildlife that draw visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve are often wolves, grizzly/brown bear, moose, caribou, and dall sheep.
Seeing wildlife is a hit and a miss. One day a shuttle might catch all five species, and more, while the very next day you might only spot one or two. Weather and time of day, and time of year are factors. Generally late August and early September produces improved chances or wildlife viewing, but all the same it's a game of luck.
Charles Sheldon, 1867-1928, noted hunter/naturalist, visited the Mount McKinley (now Denali) area in 1906, 1907, and 1908 to study Dall sheep and other wildlife. He believed the outstanding wilderness wonders of the area should be protected, and worked unrelentingly toward that goal. He was a prime figure in Mount McKinley's establishment as a National Park on February 26, 1917.
In the early western history of the park many were explorers just passing through or surveying and exploring. All noted the beauty and large quantities of game and ample hunting. Even so, in 1903 while enjoying the abundant game and hunting James Wickersham noted while passing through the Wonder Lake area âThis forest ought to be withdrawn from disposal and preserved for the use of those who shall come after us to explore the highest and most royal of American mountains.â At a time in American history when land was abundant and much of Alaska a vast wilderness, them mention of conservation was unusual and speaks volumes of its beauty.
In the summer of 1906 Charles Sheldon, a wealthy 38 year old, traveled to the Denali area after hearing reports about the Dall Sheep. Sheldon had an interest in the study and preservation of mountain sheep. He stayed as long as he could in the area, leaving only because if he lingered any longer he would miss the seasons last Yukon River steamboat required to get home. The next year he returned with Harry Karstens, for further observation and hunting of the sheep, the specimen Sheldon harvested were sent to the American Museum of Natural History. That year he built a cabin on the bank of the Toklat River, opposite of present-day Sheldon Creek.
While there Sheldon branched out from the study of Dall Sheep to include other flora and fauna of the area. As Sheldon immersed himself in studying the area his passion in it only grew deeper. In a January 12, diary entry Sheldon wrote of how the land should be sanctioned a park and game preserve. From that point Sheldon and Karstens monitored wildlife travel with the goal to set optimal park boundaries.
Around 1910 the park area gained headlines with competitive expeditions to be the first to summit Denali (then Mt. McKinley). In 1915 plans were set for putting in the Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks. Upon hearing this Sheldon had mixed feelings as to what effects it would have on his beloved land. On one hand it would open up opportunities for easier exploitation, on the other it would make it much easier to get tourist and conservationist to the area.
Sheep were continually hunted by sport hunters and used to feed those working on the railroad. It is estimated that from 1913-1915 some 1,500-2,000 sheep were harvested each winter between Toklat and Teklanika river basins. Upon news of this Sheldon and colleagues pressed congress to pass a bill declaring the area a protected park. On September 21, 1915 Sheldon was able to get the Boone and Crockett Club to endorse the bill.
Wickersham, Belmore Browne, and Sheldon collaborated on the drafting of a park bill (H.R. 14775), which Wickersham submitted to the House of Representatives on April 18, 1916. There was a lot going on with efforts but ultimately February 26, 1917 the park bill was signed.