Seven new national parks in Alaska were established on this day in 1980. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act extended varying degrees of protection to over 157 million acres of public lands, doubling the size of the national park system. From ice-covered peaks to turquoise fjords, countless glaciers, forests, tundra, rivers and wildlife were added to the state’s conservation jewels. A lifetime of exploring and a heart the size of Denali are not enough to fully appreciate the wonders found on these lands and waters. Photo of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.
Soar over the Aleutian Range, and take in the incredible textures of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Alaska. Adjacent to Katmai National Park & Preserve, this wonderland nurtures one of Bristol Bay’s largest sockeye salmon runs, part of the foundation for the local economy. Some six million sockeye salmon run here annually, supporting a wide array of wildlife while contributing to ancient cycles. At a size difficult to comprehend, the refuge protects 1,157,000 acres and includes an active volcano, unusual geological features, historically significant landmarks, and a federally designated Wilderness. Photos by Jeff Jones, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Frosty and noble, sled dogs are incredible athletes. Each March the Iditarod Sled Dog Race runs through a harsh and beautiful landscape to Nome, Alaska. The race uses the Iditarod National Historic Trail, a 2,300-mile system of winter routes that first connected ancient Native Alaskan villages. The trail cuts through tundra, spruce forest and across rivers serving up some truly tough conditions. Thinking of trying it out? The Bureau of Land Management recommends knowledge in extreme winter camping and travel by ski, dog team, snowmobile or fat tire bike. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.