Article Summary: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts! In this article, we provide you with 10 surprising facts about one of America’s most magnificent national parks.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand.
And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
More Than Just Parks takes a deeper dive with its national park facts. We’ve done our homework so that you’ll get more than you bargained for.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table Of Contents: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
- Facts About Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
- Top 5 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
- Top 10 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
- 6. Wrangell-St. Elias Has A Diverse Array Of Wildlife
- 7. The Park Features Some Amazing Hiking Trails
- 8. Wrangell-St. Elias Is Home To Some Of The World’s Largest Volcanoes
- 9. The Park Features A Historic Landmark
- 10. The Park Was Created By Jimmy Carter As Part Of The Largest Single Act Of Conservation In U.S. History
- Why Trust Us About Wrangell-St. Elias National Park?
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Facts About Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is located in Alaska. It’s the largest national park in the country, covering over 13 million acres.
It was established in 1980 and is part of the larger Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
The park contains several large glaciers, including the Malaspina Glacier, which is one of the largest glaciers in North America.
The park is also home to the highest peak in North America, Mount St. Elias, which rises to an elevation of 18,008 feet.
The park’s landscape includes mountains, valleys, glaciers, and fjords, as well as a variety of wildlife, including bears, moose, caribou, and wolves.
The park is a popular destination for backpacking, mountaineering, and wildlife viewing.
Some Basic Facts About Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- Location: Alaska
- Acreage: America’s Largest National Park. Wrangell-St. Elias is a vast national park that rises from the ocean all the way up to 18,008 ft. At 13.2 million acres, the park is the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined!
- Visitation: The park had slightly under 75,000 visitors in 2019.
- Elevation: Elias, at 18,008 feet (5.5km), is the second highest peak in the United States. Nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. Mt. Wrangell, at 14,163 feet (4.3km), is one of the largest active volcanoes in North America.
- Climate: Wrangell St. Elias has an interior continental climate (long, extremely cold winters, and short, warm, relatively dry summers).
- When Did It Become A National Park? On November 12, 1980, President Carter designated 13.2 million acres of land as Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
Top 5 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
1. The Park Preserves Its Ties To Four Distinct Alaska Native Groups
As a retired history teacher and lifelong history buff, I’ve always been fascinated with origin stories. Who were the earliest peoples and what did they do? One of my favorite Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts has to do with the four groups of Alaska natives who first came to this area.
The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve has historical ties to four distinct Alaska Native groups: Ahtna and Upper Tanana Athabascans who lived in the interior of the park, and Eyak and Tlingit who lived in villages on the Gulf of Alaska coast.
These groups lived in semi-permanent camps, traded resources and copper, and had well-established trade routes with other native peoples.
Today, the descendants of these groups continue to live in the same villages and participate in subsistence activities in the park.
They are also shareholders in Native corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
2. The Discovery Of Gold Transformed The Area
Another of the surprising Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks has to do with the discovery of gold in the area.
The Wrangell Mountains saw a lot of mineral development and exploration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in the discovery of gold on Jacksina Creek in 1899 and rich chalcocite deposits on Bonanza Ridge in 1900.
These led to the establishment of the Kennecott Mines in 1911, which produced over a billion pounds of copper and silver ore in 27 years of operation. The mines were abandoned in 1938 when the rich ore was exhausted. (More on the later).
In 1913, gold fever struck again in the Chisana area leading to the last great gold rush in Alaska. The Nabesna Road was built in the early 1930s to transport gold ore from the Nabesna Mine, which is now closed.
Today, the old railway bed and the Nabesna Road provide vehicle access into the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Alaska & The Klondike Gold Rush
It wasn’t just Wrangell-St. Elias that was impacted by the Alaska Gold Rush.
The Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899 had a significant impact on Alaska. It brought an influx of people and investment to the region, leading to the growth of cities such as Skagway and Dawson.
The gold rush also resulted in the development of transportation and communication infrastructure, including steamships, railroads, and telegraph lines. However, the gold rush also brought negative impacts, such as increased environmental degradation and exploitation of indigenous peoples.
Additionally, the gold rush was relatively short-lived, and many people left the region when the gold began to run out, leading to a period of economic decline in Alaska.
3. An Alaskan Governor Played A Leading Role In The Establishment Of The Park
What I find so fascinating when researching the stories behind America’s national parks is the roles often played by ordinary citizens in their creation. In the case of Wrangell-St. Elias, however, it was no ordinary citizen who became a champion of this national park.
Ernest Gruening was instrumental in the creation of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. He served as the governor of Alaska from 1939 to 1953, and was a strong advocate for the preservation of the state’s natural resources.
During his governorship, Gruening played a leading role in the establishment of Wrangell-St. Elias as a national park in 1980.
He worked with other conservationists and policymakers to secure federal protection for the region, which is now one of the largest national parks in the United States and a popular destination for outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing.
Gruening Was Also The Father Of Alaskan Statehood
Ernest Gruening played a significant role in the pursuit of Alaskan statehood. He fought for Alaska’s interests in Washington, D.C., and played an instrumental role in the effort to secure statehood for Alaska.
He made many speeches, wrote articles, and gave interviews to promote the cause of Alaskan statehood, and was a key figure in the successful effort to make Alaska the 49th state in the United States in 1959.
Everett Gruening served as the first U.S. Senator of Alaska after it was admitted as a state in 1959. He was reelected in 1962 and served until 1969 when he lost the election to fellow Democrat Mike Gravel.
Despite the loss, Gruening continued to work in politics as a legislative consultant and president of an investment firm. He also continued to write and authored several books on various subjects, including politics and the history of Alaska.
Gruening died in 1974 and his ashes were scattered on Mount Ernest Gruening. A statue of him was donated to the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C. in 1977.
4. It’s The Largest National Park & Preserve In The U.S.
If you’re someone who believes that size truly matters then you’ll be impressed by the next of our Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts.
At in excess of 13 million acres, it’s the largest national park and preserve in the United States.
Simply put, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest unit of the U.S. National Park System, and with its high peaks and massive glaciers, it is also one of the most spectacular.
5. The Park Features The Largest Glacier In The World
As long as we’re on the topic of size, the next of our Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts belongs under the heading of “super-sized.”
The largest glacier in the world, the Bering Glacier, is located in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The glacier covers an area of over 2,000 square miles and has a length of over 100 miles, making it one of the largest temperate glaciers in the world.
The Bering Glacier is a significant feature of the park, as it drains into the Gulf of Alaska, creating large ice fields, rivers, and lakes.
The glacier is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including several species of fish, birds, and mammals.
There Are Some Other Noteworthy Glaciers Too
Some of the most noteworthy glaciers in the park include:
- Bering Glacier: As mentioned before, the Bering Glacier is the largest glacier in the world, covering over 2,000 square miles and stretching over 100 miles.
- Hubbard Glacier: This is one of the most active glaciers in the park and is also one of the largest in North America, measuring over 76 miles long. The Hubbard Glacier is known for its dramatic calving events, where large chunks of ice break off the glacier and fall into the sea.
- Yakutat Glacier: The Yakutat Glacier is a large and slow-moving glacier that covers over 1,400 square miles and is a major contributor to the park’s ice fields.
- Russell Glacier: The Russell Glacier is a valley glacier that is located in the heart of the park and is easily accessible from the road system. It is a popular destination for visitors and provides an excellent opportunity to see a glacier up close.
Top 10 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
6. Wrangell-St. Elias Has A Diverse Array Of Wildlife
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including many species that are unique to the area.
Some of the notable wildlife species that can be found in the park include:
- Grizzly bears: The park is home to a large population of grizzly bears, which can be seen along the park’s rivers and in its alpine meadows.
- Moose: Moose are a common sight in the park, especially in the lowland areas and near the glaciers.
- Wolves: Gray wolves are found throughout the park and play a critical role in maintaining the balance of the park’s ecosystem.
- Caribou: The park is home to several herds of caribou, which can be seen in the high country during the summer months.
- Bald Eagles: Bald eagles are a common sight in the park, especially near the glaciers and along the rivers where they feed on fish.
- Dall Sheep: Dall sheep can be seen in the park’s high country and are a popular target for hunters and wildlife watchers.
- Foxes: Red foxes, arctic foxes, and gray foxes can all be found in the park and are known for their adaptability and resourcefulness.
7. The Park Features Some Amazing Hiking Trails
As someone who loves hiking almost as much as he loves history, the next Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Fact is one of my favorites. The park features some truly amazing hiking trails.
As the National Park Service notes, hiking in Wrangell-St. Elias can be spectacular and most of the park’s hiking trails are maintained for the first few miles and then become routes.
Some Of The Best Hiking Trails In The Park
Some of the best hiking trails in the park include:
- Root Glacier Trail: This is a popular and easy hike that takes visitors onto the Root Glacier, where they can explore the ice and see the numerous streams and pools that are formed on its surface.
- Kennicott Glacier Trail: This trail takes visitors to the base of the Kennicott Glacier and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.
- McCarthy Road Trail: This trail follows the historic McCarthy Road and offers scenic views of the park’s wilderness and glaciers.
- Mount Baldwin Trail: This is a challenging hike that takes visitors to the summit of Mount Baldwin, offering panoramic views of the park and surrounding areas.
- Pioneer Ridge Trail: This trail provides a challenging hike through the park’s high country and offers breathtaking views of the glaciers, mountains, and valleys.
- Draney Glacier Trail: This trail takes visitors to the Draney Glacier, where they can see the glacier up close and explore its surrounding ice fields.
8. Wrangell-St. Elias Is Home To Some Of The World’s Largest Volcanoes
Another of the surprising Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts has to do with some of the largest volcanoes in the world which just happen to make their home in the park.
In fact, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is home to several active and potentially active volcanoes, including Mount Wrangell, which is one of the largest (by volume) active volcanoes in the world.
The Wrangell Volcanic Field, which covers over 2,000 square miles, is a volcanic field located in the park and contains thousands of lava flows, as well as several towering peaks, including Mount Sanford, Mount Drum, Mount Blackburn, Mount Churchill, Mount Jarvis, and Mount Regal.
The Park’s Volcanoes Are Part Of The Larger Wrangell Mountains
The volcanoes in Wrangell-St. Elias are part of the larger Wrangell Mountains, which form the volcanic heart of the park. They were formed over the last 5 million years by massive eruptions resulting from tectonic collisions along the Pacific and North American crustal plates.
Although volcanic activity has slowed in recent thousands of years, there is still heat at shallow depths, as evidenced by steam plumes from Mount Wrangell and a series of active mud volcanoes east of Glennallen.
Visitors to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park can experience the unique and dynamic landscape created by the combination of active volcanism and glaciers, and can witness the power and beauty of these natural forces firsthand.
9. The Park Features A Historic Landmark
The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, was once one of the richest copper mines in the world.
The mines were discovered in 1900 by a group of prospectors and were operated by the Kennecott Copper Corporation from 1911 to 1938. During its peak years, the Kennecott Mines produced millions of dollars’ worth of copper ore and helped spur the development of the region and the growth of the Alaskan economy.
The town of Kennecott, which was built near the mines to support the mining operations, was a bustling and vibrant community, with a population of over 2,000 people at its peak.
Things To Do
The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark in Alaska offers several things to see and do, including:
- Guided tours of the historic copper mine and mill town
- Visiting the museum and exhibits showcasing the history of mining in the area
- Hiking the scenic trails in the surrounding wilderness
- Photography opportunities of the unique mining structures and scenic views
- Panning for gold in the nearby creeks.
Visitors can learn about the history of copper mining and the role it played in the development of Alaska and the United States. The site provides a unique opportunity to see a well-preserved example of early 20th century mining operations.
Another of my favorite Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts has to do with how it was preserved and protected.
It’s also a story of the extraordinary man responsible for this act of protection who also happened to be America’s 39th President of the United States – Jimmy Carter.
The Alaska Lands Act
After the historic passage of one of Jimmy Carter’s most important environmental actions, called the Alaska Lands National Interest Conservation Act (ANILCA), Cronkite had this to say:
“President Carter today more than doubled the size of the National Park System by invoking his executive authority to protect 56 millions acres of Alaskan Wilderness. Environmental groups said Carter has now replaced Teddy Roosevelt as the greatest conservation president of all time.”
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) designated more than 100 million acres of federal land in Alaska as new or expanded conservation system units.
Why Trust Us About Wrangell-St. Elias National Park?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
List Of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Facts
- The Park Preserves Its Ties To Four Distinct Alaska Native Groups
- The Discovery Of Gold Transformed The Area
- An Alaskan Governor Played A Leading Role In The Establishment Of The Park
- It’s The Largest National Park & Preserve In The U.S.
- The Park Features The Largest Glacier In The World
- Wrangell-St. Elias Has A Diverse Array Of Wildlife
- The Park Features Some Amazing Hiking Trails
- Wrangell-St. Elias Is Home To Some Of The World’s Largest Volcanoes
- The Park Features A Historic Landmark
- The Park Was Created By Jimmy Carter As Part Of The Largest Single Act Of Conservation In U.S. History
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
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