National Parks in Alaska
Alaska is home to 15 National Parks and Preserves, more than any other state. Princess can help you experience the depth and breadth of these great parks by spending time at one, or all of our five custom-built wilderness lodges. They are perfectly situated to showcase some of Alaska’s great national parks.
Some 54 million acres of land are under the administration of the National Park Service in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act of 1980- also referred to as ANILCA, created 10 new National Park Service Units in Alaska and increased the size of three of existing park units- Glacier Bay, Denali and Katmai.
National parks exist to preserve scenic areas, wildlife populations and recreational opportunities. Activities are closely regulated within national park boundaries. However, regulations for National Park Service Units in Alaska recognize that many of these parks contain lands traditionally occupied and used by Alaska Natives and rural homesteaders for subsistence activities. Therefore, management of some of the parks and preserves in Alaska allow for subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering activities where such activities are customary.
The existing park and preserves in Alaska include:
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain ranges converge in what is often referred to as the “mountain kingdom of North America.” The largest unit of the National Park System and a day’s drive east of Anchorage, this spectacular park includes the continent’s largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States.
Adjacent to Canada’s Kluane National Park, the site is characterized by remote mountains, sweeping valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife.
Proclaimed as Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument Dec. 1, 1978; established as a national park and preserve Dec. 2, 1980. Wilderness designated Dec. 2, 1980. Designated a World Heritage Site Oct. 24, 1979.
Encompassing towering mountains, massive glaciers, powerful rivers, a seemingly endless variety of flora and fauna and Kennecott, a National Historic Landmark, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a national treasure with something for everyone.
The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge offers a perfect base camp for your exploration into this park. Visitors can choose from a variety of activities that may include travel by road, air, trail or river. Travel in the Park presents challenges to even the hardiest travelers, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a vast, pristine wilderness and remarkable solitude.
National Parks in Alaska
National parks exist to preserve scenic areas, wildlife populations and recreational opportunities. Activities are closely regulated within national park boundaries. However, regulations for National Park Service Units in Alaska recognize that many of these parks contain lands traditionally occupied and used by Alaska Natives and rural homesteaders for subsistence activities.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Sweeping from rocky coastline to glacier-crowned peaks, Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses 607,805 acres of unspoiled wilderness on the southeast coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The park is capped by the Harding Icefield, a relic from past ice-ages and the largest icefield entirely within U.S. borders.
The park is accessible from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge via a variety of optional tour excursions. Visitors witness a landscape continuously shaped by glaciers, earthquakes, and storms. Orcas, otters, puffins, bear, moose and mountain goats are just a few of the numerous animals that make their home in this ever-changing place where mountains, ice and ocean meet.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing massive tidewater glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. The park has snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. These diverse land and seascapes host a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers, to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. Diverse habitats support a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife, with opportunities for viewing and research that allow us to learn more about the natural world.
Glacier Bay is best viewed from the water as there no roads into Glacier Bay. Princess’ voyage of the glaciers cruise is the best way to come face to face with calving glaciers and glacial ice flows.
Denali National Park and Preserve
The heart of Denali National Park and Preserve lies in a great alpine valley between the slopes of the Alaska range and foothills to the north. Standing sentry in the midst of it all is 20,320 ft Denali, North America’s tallest mountain. Few wilderness areas remain so pristine and accessible. It was this special character which led congress to create Denali National Park.
Only one, single narrow road penetrates deep into the park, through the rolling tundra. Private vehicles traffic is strictly limited. Park service tours travel all the way to the end of the road for those who ant an in-depth search for wildlife. Denali National Park & Preserve is a fantastic place to visit abundant with wildlife, cultural history, and activities for all age groups.
Aniakchak National Park and Preserve
The Aniakchak Caldera, is the result of a series of volcanic eruptions, the latest in 1931. A Caldera is a large, basin-shaped volcanic depression that is more or less circular in form. Most volcanic calderas are produced by collapse of the roof of a magma chamber due to removal of magma by voluminous eruptions or subterranean withdrawal of the magma, although some calderas may be formed by explosive removal of the upper part of a volcano. Nearly six miles in diameter and covering some ten square miles, the Aniakchak is one of the worlds best examples of dry caldera. Located in the volcanically active Aleutian chain, the crater contains lava flows, cinder cones, and explosion pits. The site also contains the Aniakchak Wild River which cascades through a 1,500-foot gash in the caldera wall.
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is one of the most remote national park areas. The park is located on the Seward Peninsula in northwest Alaska and is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia with North America more than 13,000 years ago.
The land bridge was a migration route for people, animals, and plants during the glacial epoch. The majority of this land bridge, once thousands of miles wide, now lies beneath the waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Archeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas.
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument is a coastal plain dotted with sizable lagoons and flanked by rolling limestone hills. Cape Krusenstern’s most notable feature is its series of bluffs and 114 beach ridges that record the changing shorelines of the Chukchi Sea over thousands of years.
The ridges accumulated over time, the most recently formed ridges are near the shore and the first formed ridges lie inland. This unusual series of beach ridges present, in sequence, detailed evidence of an estimated 9,000 years of prehistoric human use of this coastline. The archeological sites at Cape Krusenstern are older than well-known remains of ancient Greek civilizations.
In summer, wildflowers color the beach ridges and nearby hills. Large numbers of migratory birds come from all over the world to Cape Krusenstern to nest. In fall, these migrating birds use the lagoons as feeding and staging areas. Shifting sea ice, ocean currents, and waves continue to form spits and lagoons possessing important scientific, cultural, and scenic values.
Gates of the Artic National Park and Preserve
Congress reserved a vast and untouched area of incredible natural beauty and scientific value – a maze of glaciated valleys and gaunt, rugged mountains covered with boreal forest and arctic tundra vegetation, cut by wild rivers, and inhabited by far-ranging populations of caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and bears (barren-ground grizzlies and black bears). By establishing Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (GAAR) in the Brooks Range, Congress recognized that a special value of the area is its wild and undeveloped character, and the opportunities it affords for solitude, wilderness travel, and adventure. The National Park Service is entrusted to manage the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve to protect its physical resources and to maintain the intangible qualities of the wilderness and the opportunity it provides for people to learn and renew its values.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Katmai is famous for volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness. Katmai is also home to North America’s highest concentration of prehistoric human dwellings (about 900).
There are at least fourteen volcanoes in Katmai considered “active”, none of which are currently erupting. Katmai National Monument was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano.
Brown bear and salmon are very active in Katmai. The Katmai brown bears population has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run each July, and during return of the “spawned out” salmon in September, forty to sixty bears congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines.
There is plenty room for great diversity of wildlife in Katmai which encompasses millions of acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
This park celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 through 15 restored buildings within the Skagway Historic District. The park also administers the Chilkoot Trail and a small portion of the White Pass Trail. Included in the park is a portion of the Dyea Townsite at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail.
Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park provides protection for several important geographic features, including the central portion of the Kobuk River, the 25-sqaure-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk and Hunt River dunes.
Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation. River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a composite of ecosystems representative of many regions of Alaska. The spectacular scenery stretches from the shores of Cook Inlet, across the Chigmit Mountains, to the tundra covered hills of the western interior. The Chigmits, where the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges meet, are an awesome, jagged array of mountains and glaciers which include two active volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna. Lake Clark and many other lakes and rivers within the park are critical salmon habitat to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, one of the largest sockeye salmon fishing grounds in the world. Numerous lake and river systems in the park and preserve offer excellent fishing and wildlife viewing.
Noatak National Preserve
As one of North America’s largest mountain-ringed river basins with an intact ecosystem, the Noatak River environs features some of the Arctic’s finest arrays of plants and animals. The river is classified as a national wild and scenic river, and offers surperlative wilderness float-trip opportunities – from deep in the Brooks Range to the tidewater of the Chukchi Sea.
Sitka National Historical Park
Alaska’s oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. All that remains of this last major conflict between Europeans and Alaska Natives is the site of the Tlingit Fort and battlefield, located within this scenic 113 acre park in a temperate rain forest.
Southeast Alaska totem poles and a temperate rain forest setting combine to provide spectacular scenery along the park’s coastal trail. The trail circles back along Indian River to the visitor center. Another loop trail continues across the Indian River footbridge past the Memorial to the Russian Midshipmen who died in the Battle of Sitka.
The park’s story continues at the Russian Bishop’s House, one of three surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. This original 1843 log structure conveys the legacy of Russian America through exhibits, refurbished Bishop’s living quarters and lavish icons in the Chapel of the Annunciation.
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Located along the Canadian border in central Alaska, the preserve protects 115 miles of the 1,800-mile Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin. Numerous rustic cabins and historic sites are reminders of the importance of the Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush. Paleontological and archeological sites here add much to our knowledge of the environment thousands of years ago. Peregrine falcons nest in the high bluffs overlooking the river, while the rolling hills that make up the preserve are home to an abundant array of wildlife. The Charley, a 100-mile long wild river, is considered by many to be the most spectacular river in Alaska.