Tag Archives: Denali NP

A snowy Denali National Park

The view across Denali National Park at the end of May, 2022

In the 99 years of record keeping within Denali National Park, the winter of 2021-22 was the record setter. 176 inches of snow fell at park headquarters this past winter, breaking the 174″ of 1970-71.

As of May 15, there were still 33″ of snow on the ground at the park’s headquarters, far above average for this late in the season.

It’s been a tough winter for wildlife, particularly moose, who have had to fight the deep drifts. Both moose and bears have been traveling on the park road, so traffic has been limited past Sable Pass. Bicyclists normally can travel up & down the park road, but with the stressed wildlife, that will remain limited until the snow melts.

The shuttle bus will only be traveling as far as Pretty Rocks, due to the road collapse from the melting ice formation.

The park’s visitor center will be open for the first time since 2019, and the park’s sled dog kennel will also be open for tours. 2022 is the 100th anniversary for the Denali Park Sled Dog Kennel.


Denali Road Droop

Denali Park Road at Pretty Rocks; August 2021

The above picture is of the Denali Park Road at the Pretty Rocks formation last August. That was the last time any gravel had been dumped in this section of road that is dropping due to melting ice under the roadbed.

Denali Park Road at Pretty Rocks; Spring 2022

This spring, maintenance crews discovered that the road had dropped as much as 40 feet at the troublesome section near Pretty Rocks. It had already been decided that the park road would be closed for the 2022 season due to the roadbed situation, but the drop was more impressive than forecast.

A new bridge will be installed over the section with the melting ice formation, and will be secured into solid rock on either side of the great melt. I expect that the road into the heart of Denali Park to remain closed through the 2023 season.

Pictures credit: Denali National Park & Preserve


Denali National Park & Preserve

National Parks Week: Day Four

Looking down on Muldrow Glacier; Image credit: Hudson Stuck

The image was taken in 1913, when Walter Harper, Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, and Robert Tatum trekked their way to Denali’s summit. It was Harper who became the first known individual to stand on the summit of North America’s highest peak.


Nanuqsaurus

The Nanuqsaurus; Image credit: CBC

Fossils of the previously unknown species of dinosaur were discovered in Alaska’s North Slope in 2006. A cousin of the T-Rex, the Nanuqsaurus (polar bear-lizard) was originally thought to be approximately half the size of a T-Rex, but more recent evidence points to the Arctic dino as being in the size range of the Albertosaurus.

The Nanuqsaurus roamed what is now Alaska some 70 million years ago, and new findings have evidence of the species living in what is now Denali National Park.

The reconstructed skull of a Nanuqsaurus in the Perot Museum


“Alaskan Dinosaurs” on NOVA

Credit: PBS

New research on the dinosaurs that lived in the area that is now Alaska, will be featured on tonight’s (Wednesday) episode of NOVA.

Using LiDAR to unearth old secrets in the permafrost of Denali National Park in the Interior, and along the banks of the Colville River north of the Arctic Circle, researchers bring evidence of a flourishing community of dinosaurs in the far north.

Dinosaurs AND Alaska; how do you top that?

Check your local listings for showtimes.

Rendition of a herd of duck-billed dinosaurs in Alaska, 70 million years ago.


Jumping the glacier?

The Alaska Cruise Ship Industry is (roughly) forecasting a record 1.6 million tourists in 2022. That would be an increase of 18% over the previous record 1.3 million in 2019.

After two disastrous years due to the pandemic, I can see why the industry is desperate for a good year. But record breaking? That seems like a stretch, and might be a bit premature.

Will people be traveling at that level in 2022? Can the cruise ships, and more importantly, the small coastal businesses find the staff to handle those kind of numbers? 2022 will no doubt remain an interesting travel year within the 49th State.


Holidaze Travel

The Aurora Winter Train, Alaska Railroad Depot; Fairbanks

I had several friends travel Outside over the Holidays, while I was quite content to enjoy the cabin life in Fairbanks. Getting out wasn’t the problem. It was getting back to Alaska which has proved challenging. Most friends had layovers in Seattle, which were long enough to officially be reclassified as detours. One had a detour in Anchorage; getting oh so close to Fairbanks, but yet divided by a mountain of snow.

Two friends attempted to travel from Arizona to Fairbanks. There was a detour in Seattle, followed by a last minute flight to Anchorage. A second detour was then encountered. All flights between Alaska’s largest cities were booked out for days. Determined to get home, they booked a ride on the Alaska Railroad. I was excited for them, probably more excited than they were. I have never ridden that set of rails in the winter.

Out of the blue, I received a text from them. They were in Denali Park. “How long is this ride?” they asked. I hesitated, but eventually told them it was a 12 hour trip. One way. The Alaska Railroad is not high speed travel.

Late on New Year’s Day, I get a call. Taxis from the depot are three hours out. It’s -35F, but I head out the door to provide pickup/limo service.

The locomotive did look good, all decked out in Christmas lights.


We have snow

We had a very wet December

I was debating taking last week off completely from the blog, then the storm hit, and my days were filled with shoveling and plowing.

Officially, the ten day storm brought 30.2 inches of snow. You’re thinking: “Piece of cake”. It probably would have been if we didn’t have 1-1/2″ of freezing rain in the middle of the 2-1/2 feet of snow. It was simply a mess out there.

In the end, I had 52″ of snow fall at the cabin in the month of December. That’s good for second place in all recorded Decembers, and the fourth ever snowiest month. Total precipitation rivaled August 1967, when Fairbanks had its historic flood.

Not to be left out, Denali National Park HQ recorded 78″ of snow in December, breaking the monthly record.

We do not have any snow in the coming week’s forecast, which I’m beyond thrilled about. We have some digging out to do, but we seem to be heading back to more normal weather. Sunday morning saw temps at -40F/C. Thank goodness.

There may be a car under there

The slumping of the Denali Park Road

A drill rig taking core samples at Pretty Rocks

The Denali Park Road has a slump in it. The road was cut into the rocks 90 years ago, and a section at Mile 45 in Polychrome Pass, in an area that is known as Pretty Rocks, is built over an underground rock glacier. The existence of the glacier was unknown at that time, but it has been melting at an accelerating rate the past three years.

In 2018 the road was dropping an inch a month, by 2019 that had grown to an inch a day. This August, the road has been dropping over a half inch an hour. More than 100 dump truck loads of gravel were dropped over this span every week this summer, but even that proved pointless, and the Park Road was closed to traffic at Mile 43 in August. The landslide has moved far enough down the hillside to expose the ice below the roadway.

Winter should put the freeze into the ground once again, so that the road can be used early next spring, but the plans are for the road to be closed for all of the summer of 2022. There is solid rock on either side of the glacier, so a bridge will be anchored into those to span the slump zone.

Time lapse of the landslide in Polychrome Pass

Photo and time-lapse credit: NPS


The White Stuff

Denali National Park Webcam

Friday morning at the Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park. Elevation: 3300′.

In another weather note: As of Friday evening, Fairbanks has seen 175% of normal rainfall for the entire month of August. That puts us at the 8th wettest August since 1930, although both 2018 and 2019 had more rainfall at this point than this August.