With the warmer weather and midnight sun comes the arrival of another summer anomaly: The Tourist. In March and April, we shared the roads with new tour bus drivers, who were learning how to drive while sharing Alaska tidbits over the bus loudspeaker.
Last week, I spotted the first full tour bus in Fairbanks. The bus had traveled the Parks Highway from Denali National Park. The swans, geese and cranes have been here for a few weeks, and now the tourists join the gaggle.
To add insult to injury, for those of us who are accustomed to seeing moose along the roadside, Sunday was National Tourist Day. Where did that celebration come from? Or, is that day, considered a warning? Time to prepare for the inevitable sudden stops for wildlife viewing.
As much as I love having them around, they are still just a moose! Alaska Tip: Pull off the roadway completely before stopping to gawk. The resident behind you will appreciate the effort.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.