Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve FAQs

What is the difference between National Park and Preserve?
A National Park is an area of unusual scenic or historic interest owned by the federal government and administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Mission: The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. Read more

A National Preserve is similar to a National Park, but allows other human activities to occur, such as sport hunting. ANILCA directed that preserves be administered “in the same manner as a national park…except that the taking of fish and wildlife for sport purposes and subsistence uses, and trapping shall be allowed.” Future access to Dall sheep for sport hunting and protection of certain visitor corridors from hunting were some of the controversial issues involved in drawing the boundaries between Park and Preserve


Where did the park get its name?
Wrangell-St. Elias is named for two of the mountain ranges that form its rugged backbone. The Wrangell Mountains were named after Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel (1796-1870), who was a Russian Naval officer, arctic explorer, and government administrator. He was a governor of the Russian colonies in Alaska (1829-35), director of the Russian American company (1840-49), and minister of the navy (1855-57).

The St. Elias Mountains were named by explorer Vitus Bering (1681-1741). Bering was a Danish explorer in Russian employ that was selected in 1725 by Peter I to explore far NE Siberia. In 1728 Bering oversaw the exploration and mapping of the far reaches of Siberia and headed an expedition across the sea (which later was to bear his name) to Alaska. Bering sighted massive coastal mountains on July 16. The lofty summit of Mt. St. Elias was the first piece of Alaska mainland to catch Vitus Bering’s eye. That day was the feast day of the Saint Elias. The area where they made landfall was named for Elias. Eventually the mountain too came to be calledMount St. Elias.


How long has this been a Park?
Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument (10,950,000 acres) was established along with 16 other national monuments on November 16, 1978. The Alaska Native Interests Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) of November 12, 1980 established Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST) and nine other national parks, and designated 56,000,000 acres of wilderness, effectively more than doubling the acreage in the NPS and Wilderness Preservation System.


When did Mt. Wrangell last erupt?
Eruptive activity has been noted in Mt. Wrangell in 1784, 1884-5, and 1900. On clear, cold, and calm days, steam plumes are often visible.


What does it mean to be a World Heritage Site?
World Heritage Sites are “such outstanding universally recognized natural and cultural features that they attract the admiration and merit the protection of all people worldwide.” Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks, along with Kluane National Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in Canada, form a World Heritage Site containing 24.3 million acres, the largest internationally protected terrestrial area on the planet!


When is the mountaineering season in Wrangell-St. Elias?
Typically, April through June is the optimal mountaineering season. Mt. Bona (16,421’), Mt. Blackburn (16,390’), Mt. Sanford (16,237’), and Mt. St. Elias (18,008’) are good candidates for your adventure. Local guide services are available.


What types of wildlife might I see in the Park?
While there is a vast amount of wildlife in Wrangell-St. Elias, opportunities to view it from your vehicle are limited due to dense brush and forest along the roads. Therefore, the best spots for viewing wildlife will be from alpine areas above tree line. Wrangell-St. Elias contains one of the largest concentrations of Dall sheep in North America. Look for them along rocky ridges and mountainsides. Moose are often seen near willow bogs and lakes. In the fall, bears and other animals may be sighted near salmon spawning streams. Other species of large mammals include mountain goats, caribou, moose, brown/grizzly bear, black bear, and even two herds of transplanted bison. Smaller mammals found here include lynx, wolverine, beaver, marten, porcupine, fox, wolves, marmots, river otters, and many small rodents. The coastal areas of the park are habitat for abundant marine mammals, including sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, porpoises and even whales.


Where does the Copper River begin and end?
The Copper River begins on Mount Wrangell at the terminus of the Copper Glacier and flows approximately 280 miles to its mouth at the Copper River Delta near Cordova.


Among Bona, Blackburn and Wrangell, which is most difficult to climb?
Of these three popular peaks, Blackburn presents the most challenging climb. It is the tallest of the Wrangell Volcanic Field and often goes years without seeing any visitors.

Read more at http://www.nps.gov/wrst/faqs.htm