Photos to celebrate Denali National Park’s anniversary

The Alaska Range, the string of mountains that includes Denali, seen in Autumn. 

Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve).

Feb. 26 marks the 97th anniversary of Alaska’s Denali National Park (originally called Mount McKinley National Park by Congress). The wildlife and rugged terrain that first made it a cause celebre for the conservation movement remain as striking as ever.

Modern-day Denali National Park and Preserve draws around 400,000 visitors per year, and it isn’t hard to see why. Roaming grizzlies, alpine tundra and the majestic mountain that inspired its name all contribute to its more than century-old status as a national treasure.

Caribou in front of Denali. Fewer than 800 climbers are known to have reached its famous summit. Credit: flickr, Daniel A. Leifheit (Denali National Park and Preserve).

American newspapers first published descriptions of “Mount McKinley,” named for the 25th president, nearly 120 years ago. That peak had already enjoyed centuries of prominence in indigenous lore as “Denali,” among other names, but North America’s tallest mountain and its environs were largely a mystery amid the forbidding terrain of Alaska, whose purchase by the federal government was popularly known as “Seward’s Folly” until gold was discovered in the Yukon just before the turn of the century.

Charles Sheldon, a sportsman and naturalist, first began advocating the designation of the Denali region as a national park to protect its diverse wildlife, specifically Dall sheep. He worked with the Boone and Crockett Club to foster support for the idea, a campaign that finally resulted in a national park spanning almost 1.6 million acres in 1917 (the park was expanded and renamed the Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, and it now covers 6 million acres).

Denali currently contains 2 million acres of Wilderness and animals virtually unparalleled in their visibility and diversity. As these photos make clear, it is still a special place—one of the world’s last great wild frontiers.

A grizzly cub. Young grizzlies typically spend up to three and a half years under the supervision of their mother. Credit: flickr, Jacob W. Frank (Denali National Park and Preserve).

The Savage River area in Denali. This part of the park contains popular camping sites. Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve).

Near the Toklat River. Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve).

Climbers on a glacier in Denali. Glaciers cover about one-sixth of Denali National Park and Preserve, transporting ice and snow away from its mountain slopes. Credit: flickr, National Park Service, Alaska Region.

Near Muldrow Glacier, which carries ice and snow from the northeast slopes of Mount Denali. Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve)

Wildflowers in Denali. Hundreds of species of flowering plants can be found in the park. Credit: flickr, Neal Herbert (Denali National Park and Preserve).

A female moose with two calves. Adult moose can weigh up to 1,400 pounds, and males can be very aggressive during mating season. Credit: flickr, Jacob W. Frank (Denali National Park and Preserve).

Woodland in Denali. Trees thrive in the lowland areas of the park, where the growing season is longer and warmer. Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve).

Dall sheep, the creatures credited with inspiring Charles Sheldon to push for national park recognition in Denali. Credit: flickr, National Park Service, Alaska Region.

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Denali is acclaimed as one of the best places to see the phenomenon. Credit: flickr, Tim Rains (Denali National Park and Preserve).

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