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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Alaska Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

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Introduction

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a United States national park and national preserve managed by the National Park Service in south central Alaska. The park and preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This protected area is included in an International Biosphere Reserve and is part of the Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park and preserve form the largest area managed by the National Park Service in the United States by area with a total of 53,320.57 km2. The park includes a large portion of the Saint Elias Mountains, which include most of the highest peaks in the United States and Canada. Wrangell-St. Elias borders on Canada's Kluane National Park and Reserve to the east and approaches the U.S. Glacier Bay National Park to the south. The chief distinction between park and preserve lands is that sport hunting is prohibited in the park and permitted in the preserve. In addition, 3,674,009 ha of the park are designated as the largest single wilderness in the United States.

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Geography

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve includes the entire Wrangell range, the western portion of the Saint Elias Mountains and the eastern portion of the Chugach Mountains. Lesser ranges in the park or preserve include the Nutzotin Mountains, which are an extension of the Alaska Range, the Granite Range and the Robinson Mountains. Broad rivers run in glacial valleys between the ranges, including the Chitina River, Chisana River and the Nabesna River. All but the Chisana and Nabesna are tributaries to the Copper River, which flows along the western margin of the park and which has its headwaters within the park, at the Copper Glacier. The park includes dozens of glaciers and icefields. The Bagley Icefield covers portions of the St. Elias and Chugach ranges, and Malaspina Glacier covers most of the southeastern extension of the park, with Hubbard Glacier at the park's extreme eastern boundary, the largest tidewater glacier in North America. The eastern boundary of the park is Alaska's border with Canada, where it is adjoined by Kluane National Park and Reserve. On the southeast the park is bounded by Yakutat Bay, Tongass National Forest and the Gulf of Alaska. The remainder of the southern boundary follows the crest of the Chugach Mountains, adjoining Chugach National Forest. The western boundary is the Copper River, and the northern boundary follows the Mentasta Mountains and borders Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.

Mount St. Elias is the second highest mountain in both Canada and the United States. In total nine of the 16 highest peaks on U.S. soil are located in the park, along with North America's largest subpolar icefield, glaciers, rivers, an active volcano, and the historic Kennecott copper mines. Both the St. Elias and Wrangell ranges have seen volcanic activity. The St. Elias volcanoes are considered extinct, but the some of the volcanoes of the Wrangell Range have been active in Holocene time. Ten separate volcanoes have been documented in the western Wrangell Range, of which Mount Blackburn is the highest and Mount Wrangell is the most recently active. Mount St. Elias is situated on the border of Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Kluane National Park and Reserve. At 5,509 metres, Nearly 66 percent of park and preserve land is designated as wilderness. The Wrangell–St. Elias Wilderness is the largest designated wilderness in the United States.

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Opening Hours

The primary season for visiting Wrangell-St. Elias is early June through mid-September. Winter arrives early to interior Alaska and by September 15th, available services and facilities are few. There is usually snow on the ground by the end of September. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve has no entrance stations or gates, and never actually closes. (Please note: the park does not close, but the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center closes and locks its parking lot gates each night when it closes for the day).

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Cost

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve does not charge an entrance fee.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air travel to either Anchorage (ANC) or Fairbanks (FAI) is the easiest entry to Alaska. Then you'll want to use a car or shuttle service to reach Wrangell-St. Elias. If you are flying your own airplane to the park, there are public airstrips in the park. There are no services for re-fueling airplanes inside the park.

By Car

The Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center is the main park visitor center. It is located along the Richardson Highway (Hwy 4), which is a paved road that runs through Copper Center, AK. This visitor center is located 16 kilometres south of Glennallen, Alaska, and approximately 320 kilometres east of Anchorage, and 400 kilometres south of Fairbanks.

There are two roads that lead into the park: the Nabesna Road and the McCarthy Road. Both roads are dirt roads that are maintained by the State of Alaska. Please go to the Driving Park Roads page to learn about these dirt roads.

The Nabesna District is in the northern portion of the park and can be accessed near Slana, AK, located about 120 kilometress northeast of Copper Center. The Slana Ranger Station is located at the start of the Nabesna Road. The Nabesna Road is a gravel road that is 67 kilometres long, with 3 stream crossings. Usually 2-wheel drive vehicles can be driven on this road, but sometimes (especially after it rains) it is recommended that only 4-wheel drive vehicles or high clearance vehicles be driven on this road.

The Kennecott District is located in the southern portion of the park and can be accessed near Chitina, AK, located about 80 kilometres southeast of Copper Center. The Chitina Ranger Station is located at the start of the McCarthy Road. The McCarthy Road is a gravel road that is almost 100 kilometres long. Usually 2-wheel drive vehicles can be driving on this road, but drivers should be cautious due to limited visibility, soft shoulders, and poor road conditions.

There are NO FUEL options for your vehicle inside the park - there are no gas stations along the Nabesna or McCarthy Roads. Please be sure that you depart for these destinations with a full tank.

By Bus

There are shuttle bus services that can transport you to Glennallen and to McCarthy.The schedules are limited and reservations are required.

By Boat

The Yakutat District is located along the coastline of the park. This district cannot be reached by car, unless you take a ferry.

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Sleep

Many visitors that come to Wrangell-St. Elias stay in cabins, lodges, bed & breakfasts, private campgrounds, the Kendesnii Campground, or simply make camp on public land or pullouts along the McCarthy and Nabesna Roads. On private land within the park boundaries and along area highways, there are a number of commercial businesses that offer a variety of visitor services including camping, lodging, showers, RV hookups, and restaurants.

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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Travel Helpers

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This is version 3. Last edited at 11:10 on Jan 29, 16 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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