Denali National Park

Supervisor: Senior Lecture Ph.D:Oana Andreea Pîrnuţă Specialization: Romanian-English, group B Student: Niculescu Hrista-Octavia BRAŞOV 2010


I. Introduction a. Introduction Nature is a richness that we don’t know how to appreciate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a mouth to scream each time we hurt her. We should be aware of all the wonderful things that nature as to offerto us, one of these wonders being The Denali National Park. b. Paper reasons I wrote this paper in order to present the wonderful things that The Denali National Park has to offer. I intend to show why for many travelers, The Denali National Park is the beginning and the end of their Alaskan adventure. II. Body - Mount McKinley - Flora - Fauna - Weather - Things to do in The Denali National Park III. Conclusions
The Denali National Park is a great place for the ones who want to get away from the crowded life they have each day and spend a few days in the wild.

This paper represents a description of The Denali National Park, one of the four most visited parks in Alaska. The name of Denali National Park comes from the name that the locals use to refer to Mount McKinley: Denali (the great one). What attracts most visitors to The Denali National Park are the flora and the fauna, very rich and varied. The weather is very tricky and unstable, but in the days with clear sky, the highest peak of Alaska, Mount McKinley can be seen without any problems.

KEY WORDS -Mount McKinley -Fauna -Wildlife -Weather -Changes -Things to do in The Denali National Park

Mount McKinley Besides the wildlife, the focal point of the park is North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley.(“Alaska cruises and ports of call 2005”, Jerry Brown, Fran Wenograd Golden, 2005). “Denali” – the high one – is the mane given to McKinley by the Indians of the Kuskokwim. They looked upon Denalis as the home of their goods – an area to be revered and feared. Certainly, it’s mountains fastness and awesome, sterile beauty of its icebound slopes make it aloof, while its great height gives it supremacy over this landscape. (“Portrait of Alaska”, Hilary Hilscher, 1997) It’s the highest point on the North American continent and a world class mountaineering destination. It was called by John McPhee “a sky of rock”. Mount McKinley is often covered with clouds. It’s more likely to get a clear view of it early in the morning or late in the long day. The mountain was created by subduction, like the most active volcanoes on the continent. The snow collected by Denali feeds several large glaciers, like the Muldrow Glacier, on the northeast flank of the mountain. It flows 35 miles through a granite gorge and across the tundra. Twice in the last hundred years, the Muldrow has surged, most recently in the winter of 1956-1957. Is the largest northflowing glacier in Alaska and the original route to summit of Denali. This glacier ends in the section of the park. It leads to historic McGonagall Pass, the beginning of a 20 mile exhilarating hike to Wonder Lake. “Denali National Park, country of wide-open tundra and taiga and blue glaciers, of twisting braided rivers and an extraordinary diversity of plant and wildlife, is among the largest and most intact natural areas in the United States. The two-million-acre Mount McKinley National Park, established in 1917 to protect a wildlife, was designated as wilderness in 1980 when Congress also added four million acres of surrounding lands and renamed the whole thing Denali National Park and Preserve. In 1976, UNESCO named it an International Biosphere Reserve.” (“Our National Parks” by David Muench, Ruth Rudner, Tom Kiernan, 2005). Flora The Denali National Park is more than a single national park. Is bigger than the state of Massachusetts, 6 million acres of adventure, of wildlife. The terrain of Denali National Park includes tundra and taiga zones. The treeless areas of the park are ogten called tundra. They

include tiny flowers, extensive mosses. In the Denali National Park, there are more than 650 species of flowering plants, who were the only ones who adapted to long, cold winters, unlike other species of lichens, fungi and algae. Once the continental glaciers retreated from the park, thousand of years ago, it took hundreds of years for the soils to regenerate. The same happened with the vegetation. “The dynamic glaciated landscape provides large rivers, countless lakes and ponds, and unique landforms which form the foundation of the ecosystems that drive in Denali.”(Encyclopedia Britannica). The graminoids are the species most seen in Denali National Park. “Graminoids” is the name given by the botanists to all grasses and plants that belong to the class of Monocotyledoneae, one of the two primary classes of the flowering plants. There are 174 species of graminoids, belonging to five different families: Carex-79 species, Grass family (Poaceae-56 species), Rush family (Juncaceae-20 species), Arrowgrass family (Junicaginaceae2 species) and the Cattail family (Typhaceae-1 species). These plants form the wetland plant communities. Sedges like Carex aqualitis, Carex utriculata and Carex canescens are seen especially in wetland habitats. Due to the fact that gramonoids are a very ecologically diverse group of plants, species from the families Poaceae and Cyperaceae are seen in the driest plant communities ond the landscape. Fauna Denali National Park is Alaska’s most visited wilderness area. Wildlife is the thing in Denali – somewhere around 167 bird species, 39 mammal species, 10 fish species and a species of amphibian. This is the area where can be seen more grizzlies than hikers, more Dall sheep than grizzlies, more caribou than Dall sheep. “Animal life and activity in Denali is dictated by the season. Winter is the longest season and the animals that are year-round residents are welladapted to life in the subarctic. The brief sprinf season brings the return of 80% of Denali’s bird life, the waking of hibernating bears abd ab increase in activity levels of wildlife. Summer is a time for raisinf young and preparind for migration, hibernation or survival during the winter. […] In autumn, migrating birds fill the skies and bull moose gather their harems of cows for their mating season.” (Encycopedia Britannica). To keep the wildlife wild, the rangers at the park make visible efforts, by limiting the contact between human and animals. Because of the uncommon activity of the animals the rangers often certain areas of the park. Feeding is strictly

forbidden and people are encouraged to visit the park animals from safe distance. In Denali we can find a variety of Alaskan birds and mammals, a big population of grizzly bears and black bears. The term of “grizzly bear” is often used to refer to members of the Ursus arctos family found inland and in northern habitats of Alaska. They are among the largest and most ferocious of all land mammals. They are known as brown bears in the coastal areas where salmon is the primary food source, though brown bears and grizzly bears are the same specie. The size depends ond the bears’s food source. At Denali National Park and on similar tundra land-scape brown bears top out closer to 500 pounds. Because in the winters that bring frigid temperatures the foos scarces, grizzlies fatten up in the summer and remain in a torpor or deep sleep most of the winter. Bears are tipically solitary creatures and avoid the company of each other, but in places such as the sanctuary, concentrated food sources tend to bring out the more social side of the animals and many can be seen sparring or fighting with one another over desirable fishing spots. The Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), like the Dall sheep, travel in groups. They are large, stocky members of the deer family with concave hooves that support them in snow, soft tundra and swimming, bulls sheed their antlers after the breeding season and most aduts males are bald (antlerless) by January. Highly migratory, caribou must keept moving to find adequate food, which distributes feeding pressure and prevents overgrazing. The average adult bull weights between 350 and 400 pounds. “Caribou migrate great distances from the calving grounds south of the Alaska Range and northwest of Denali to their winter range in the northern reaches of the park and preserve. The Denali herd has fluctuated greatly over the last 30 years. Today, groups of 20 or more may be seen from the park road, greatly reduced from the thousands seen many years ago. In the summer, the caribou can be seen resting in snow banks in order to escape mosquitoes. Caribou will lose a quart of blood a day to mosquitoes during the summer months.”(“Discovering Denali: A Complete Reference Guide to Denali National Parks and Mount McKinley, Alaska”, Dow Scoggins, 2004). The largest member of the deer’s family, the Moose, does not live in a herd. In the summer, they are most often seen standing in forest ponds, eating the weeds from the bottom or pruning streamside willows. “The largest member of the deer family, with males reaching 1200 to 1600 pounds, moose are found primarly in the boreal forest that covers Interior and Southcentral Alaska.” (“Alaska cruises & ports of call 2005”, Jerry Brown, Fran Wenograd Golden, 2005). In Denali National Park, wolves are rarely seen, but this doesn’t mean that their role is not significant for the wildlife. Most of the the time, they

hunt in packs, but they can also be seen alone. The presence of wolves in Denali is an indication of the wuality of this wilderness. Besides the big animals, smaller animals, like foxes, beavers, marmots, snowshoe hares. Born durinf February and March, common litters for the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) have four kits, though a litter of ten is not unheard of. Kits usually open their eyes eight to ten days after birth and leave the den for the first time a month later. Weaning from the mother is a gradual process, and by the time the kits are three months old, they are learning to hunt. Both parents care for the young, and the family stays together until autumn, when it breaks uo and each animal is on its own. Red foxes are omnivorous and bury surplus food in the ground for later use. However, they are more rarely seen due to their elusive nature. The snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) is the most common and widespread hare in Denali National Park. Hares are often called rabbits and both are members of the Leporidae family. Hares, however, are born fully furred with their eyes open. Rabbits are born blind and hairless. Snowshoe hares are found in mixed spruce forests, wooded swamps and brushy areas and feed on a wide variety of plants including grasses, buds, twigs and leaves. In the winter, they eat spruce twigs and needles, as well as the bark and buds of hardwoods sucs as aspend and willow. During the cold winters, snowshoe hares turn white and continue the struggle to survive above ground against extreme conditions. The places where the beaver can be found the most are the tundra pounds in the western part of the park. They live about 10 to 12 years. Generally, most adult beavers weigh 40 to 70 pounds, but they can reach 100 pounds too. “The beaver’s heavy chestnut brown coat over a warm soft underfur keeps the animal comfortable in all temperature. They have large, webbed feet and a broad, black tail that can be used as a ‘rudder’ when swimming. When slapped against the water, it serves as a sign of warning, but it can signal other emotions as well.” (“Discovering Denali: A Complete Reference Guide to Denali National Parks and Mount McKinley, Alaska”, Dow Scoggins, 2004). The two types of marmot that live in The Denali National Park are the hoary marmot and the Alaska marmot. They are the large relatives of the squirrel. They weigh the most, 10 pounds or more, in the summer, when they accumulate fats that will sustain them through winter hibernation. Both species have “head short and broad, legs short, ears small, body thickset, tail densely furred, and front paws clawed for digging burrows. Hoary and Alaska marmots are predominantly gray with a darker lower back and face and a dark, reddish tail. The hoary marot has a white patch above its nose and usually has dark brown feet, giving it the Latin name ‘caligata’, meaning ‘booted’.” (“Discovering Denali: A Complete

Reference Guide to Denali National Parks and Mount McKinley, Alaska”, Dow Scoggins, 2004). Many of the rivers and lakes of Denali are fed by glaciers and cold temperatures slow down the metabolism of the fish. In the waters of the park, we can find ten species of fish, including trout, salmon and arctic grayling. “On any summer day in Denali, Alaska’s most well known national park, hundreds of people see sights that will stay with tem for the rest of their lives. Perhaps a golden eagle will soar off the cliffs at Polychrome Pass, or 20 Dall’s sheep will rest on a green shoulder of Primrose Ridge,or a grizzly will ramble over the tundra at Sable Pass. Maybe a caribou will pause on a ridgetop, silhouetred by the warm light of day’s end, or a loon will call across Wonder Lake, or clouds will part to reveal the great massif of Mount McKinley, 20.320 feet high, the roof of North America.” (“National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States”, Sixth Edition, 2009) Weather

“I once asked a park ranger in Denali National Park what the forecast was for that day. He said ‘Chance of sunshine, partly cloudy, rain, snow and possibly an earthquake.’ That’s the best way to say, be prepared for anything. Within a 24 hour period, summer weather can change from 70 degrees and sunny to 30 degrees and snowing” (“Discovering Denali: A Complete Reference Guide to Denali National Parks and Mount McKinley, Alaska”, Dow Scoggins, 2004 ). The Denali National Park experiences a wide range of meteorological conditions. Because Mount McKinley reaches 20320 feet above sea level (the highest point in North America), he experiences some of the most difficult weather conditions in the world. The Park is situated in the two major climatic zones of Alaska: the transitional maritime zone south of the Alaska Range and the continental zone in the interior region, north of the range. In the north side of the park we can find less precipitation and greater fluctuations in temperature than in the south side, where there is transitional maritime continental climate, the summers are cooler and the winters are warmer. Generally, the summers are hotter, with temperatures that can reach 90° F, and the winters are colder, with temperatures that go under -50 ° F. The climate has a very important influence on the ecology in Denali and an important role in understanding and predicting physical and ecological changes in the park. Long winters are followed by short growing

seasons. This is a good opportunity for 80% of the bird population to return, raising their young. The spring and summer months are short. It’s time for every animal to teach their young. Summers are usually cool, rain falling about half of the summer days, but it’s not rare to reach 70° F. The winter’s temperature is the most constant: clear and cold. The climbing season on Denali lasts from April through July. As a impressive fact, it is possible to see the sun at midnight on the summer solstice from Denali’s summit. The big storms on Denali originate in the Aleutians. The air temperature is a good indicator to predict these storms. In the night before the storm, the temperatures are below 0° F when it’s good and clear weather and when it’s bad weather, the temperatures reach 0° F. Another unusual weather phenomenon is the lenticular cloudcap, which occurs suddenly in the afternoon and cold temperature takes over step by step. The lenticular cloudcap happens when moist wind strikes the upper part of the mountain, where cools and condenses, creating fog, winds and sometimes snow. “Daily weather observations, including minimum and maximum temperatures and precipitation amounts have been recorded at park headquarters since 1923. Temperature extremes at park headquarters range from 91°F to -54°F. Average maximum temperatures at park headquarters are 11°F for January and 66º F for July. The average minimum temperatures for the same months are -7°F and 43°F, respectively. The daily temperature range during the summer months (June through August) averages 22ºF. Much wider daily temperature ranges (up to 68°F) occur during the winter months.” (Encyclopedia Britannica) Things to do in the Denali National Park Each year, hundreds of thousand of visitors are attracted by Denali’s spectacular wildlife: the grizzly bears, the Dall sheep, the wolves, the moose, the caribou and many others. Climbers from all over the world come to Mount McKinley, the continent’s highest peak. However, they don’t have to climb it in order to experience it. The Murie Science and Learning Center is a great place to stop for the entire family. Classes can be taken and seminaries attened. For the ones who want to spend a half day, they can attend one of the sled dog demonstrations or attend an education program at the Murie Science and Learning Center or take a shuttle bus into the park. They can hike one of the entrance area trails near the Denali Visitor center. Each of the trails

provides opportunities for explorinf tha taiga and observing wildlife. Another interesting thing to do is to watch the feature film at the Denali Visitor Center and Wilderness Access Center. For the ones who want to spend a full day in the Denali National Park, they can join a ranger for a Discovery Hike or guided walk, sign up for an education program at the Murie Science and Learning Center, take a guided Tundra Wilderness Tour of the park to Toklat River or ride the Kantishna Experience to Mile 90. Last, but not least, for the ones who have several days to spend in the Denali National Park, they can visit Denali’s Talkeetna Ranger Station, located 150 miles south of the park entrance in the town of Talkeetna. It’s a spectacular road trip that goes through Denali State Park and provides great views of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range. or, why not, plan their own trip with the help of topographical maps, guidebooks. References 1. Benchwick Greg, Bodry Catherine, Dufresne Jim – “Alaska” (2009) 2. Brown Jerry, Wenograd Golden Fran – “Alaska cruises & ports of call 2005” (2005) 3. Encyclopedia Britannica 4. Hall Margaret – “Denali National Park and Preserve” (2006) 5. Hilscher Hillary – “Portrait of Alaska” (1992) 6. Kiernan Tom, Muench David, Rudner Ruth – “Our National Parks” (2005)
7. O’Donnel Kerry – “Denali National Park, an Alaska ecosystem: creating graphical

representations of data” (2007) 8. Scoggins Dow – “Discovering Denali-a complete reference guide to Denali National Park and ount McKinley, Alaska” (2004) 9. Stuck Hudson – “The ascent od Denali” (1918)

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