Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska, USA
Incredible. You must see Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to believe it. Number and scale loom large here, magnified by splendid isolation. The largest U.S. national park, it equals six Yellowstones, with peaks upon peaks and glaciers after glaciers. Follow any braided river or stream to its source and you will find either a receding, advancing, or tidewater glacier.
The park lets you sample representative Alaska wildlife as well as historic mining sites.Hike its mountains,float its rivers, ski its glaciers, or fly over this landscape and you witness living geology. You sense discovery, the feeling you might be the first to see such sights.
The peaks’ sheer numbers quickly quell your urge to learn their names. Just settle back and appreciate their beauty, mass, and rugged grandeur. That roads are few means many travelers will not enter the park itself, but major peaks –Blackburn, Sanford, Drum, and Wrangell –are seen from nearby highways. Or position yourself in one spot and watch sun, clouds, and storms play hide and seek with single peaks or ridges. Watch moods change by the minute here. Four major mountain ranges meet in the park, which include nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. The Wrangells huddle in the northern interior. The Chugach guard the southern coast. The Saint Elias Mountains rise abruptly from the Gulf of Alaska to thrust northward past the Chugach on toward the Wrangells. The eastern end of the Alaska Range-mapped as the Nutzotin and Mentasta mountains-forms part of the preserve’s northern boundary.
The Wrangells are volcanic in origin, but only Mount Wrangell remains active (last report erupting in 1900) with vents of steam near its summit. With adjoining Kluane National Park in Canada, all these ranges form North America ’s premier mountain wilderness. Covered year-round with snow, the high-country stands cloaked with icefields and glaciers. Near the coast, North America ’s largest subpolar icefield, Bagley Icefield, spawns giant glaciers, the Tana, Miles, Hubbard,and Guyot.
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