26 Jul Moose, Mountains, and More!
Denali National Park is massive at six million acres of wild land. It was originally named Mt. McKinley National Park and was founded in 1917 as a wildlife preserve. Denali means “the great one” in Koyukon Athabaskan and it is North America’s tallest mountain at 20,310’.
My first stop was the visitor center, which houses a museum that explains the history of the park as well as a small movie theater where you can watch two 20-minute films, Heartbeats of Denali and The True Heart of Winter. If you’re hungry, The Morino Grill is the only restaurant in the park. It sells fish and chips, burgers, soup, sandwiches, and salads. If you would like to camp, the closest campground to the visitor center is Riley Creek Campground. Riley Creek Mercantile is conveniently located near the campground and you can buy firewood, ice, ice cream, and other camping staples there. Denali has a free shuttle system to get from the visitor center to other areas of the park, which reduces crowding on the road. The park also offers paid bus tours and transit buses for backpackers.
Sled Dog Kennel
Denali is the only national park with a working sled dog team. This year marks their centennial! In 1922, the park superintendent, Harry Karstens, bought seven sled dogs to patrol the park for poachers. In modern times, the dogs are used for transporting materials to the remote stations in the park. Unlike snowmobiles, sled dogs do not rely on gas, and they do not break down, so they are perfect for navigating through the winter snow. There are three sled dog demonstrations during peak summer season at 10am, 2pm, and 4pm. Prior to the demonstration, you are allowed to go into the kennel and pet the park’s friendliest rangers. There are 30 sled dogs this year and they are all adorable!
The Park Road
Denali is bisected by a road spanning 92 miles. Visitors are allowed to drive up to mile 15 and must take a park bus if they want to go further into the park. Due to the Pretty Rocks landslide, buses can only go up to mile 43 this year. Driving along the road is a great way to spot wildlife! I saw a moose and a porcupine. Other wildlife to watch out for include Dall sheep, caribou, and bears — Denali is home to grizzly bears and black bears. Quick bear safety tips: Always bring bear spray with you, stay 300 yards away from bears, and never run from a bear.
Did you know that a female moose is called a cow and a male moose is called a bull? Guess what a baby moose is called… a calf! A cow was in labor in C-Camp employee housing. Even though moose may be adorable, it is important to stay 25 yards away from them. Unlike bears, you may run away if a moose charges you. If you see a calf, be wary; its mother is nearby and will be extra aggressive to protect her young.