Alaska is a state where the visitor can watch a mass migration of caribou across the arctic plains, see the tundra blossom overnight into a riot of color, and observe polar bears and walruses in their native habitat. It is the land of the midnight sun and the noontide moon. Few states offer such contrasts as the frozen ice fields and steaming volcanoes, the vast Interior and its towering peaks, the fjords of the Panhandle and the seemingly endless flatlands of the river deltas.
Alaska’s national parks are home to the United States’ tallest mountains and biggest glaciers and some of its most exotic wildlife. Alaska contains a number of the country’s largest national parks, including Wrangell-Saint Elias, Gates of the Arctic, Denali, Lake Clark, Katmai, and Glacier Bay.
Of the 20 highest mountains in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Mount McKinley, North America’s largest mountain at 6,194 m (20,320 ft), is a defining highlight in Denali National Park and Preserve. The second tallest mountain, Mount Saint Elias (5,489 m/18,008 ft), is located in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve, a park characterized by remote mountains, valleys, and wild rivers, all rich with wildlife.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is just one of the areas in which visitors can find examples of active geological phenomena. Since it was first seen by British explorer George Vancouver in the 1790s, the wall of ice that shadows Glacier Bay has retreated about 100 km (about 60 mi). Harding Icefield and forested coastal fjords are the highlights of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Spectacular scenery stretches across the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve from the Cook Inlet to the Chigmit Mountains, which include two active volcanoes, Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna. More evidence of Alaska’s natural history can be found at Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where steam rises from a few active volcanic vents at Katmai National Park and Preserve. In the Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, the Aniakchak River cascades through a gash 500 m (1,600 ft) long at the rim of a volcano crater.
Alaska’s national parks also preserve the state’s rich cultural history. The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is a remnant of the land bridge that once connected Asia with North America, the route the earliest residents took to the continent. Cape Krusenstern National Monument contains archaeological sites that illustrate Eskimo communities dating back some 4,000 years. Sitka National Historical Park commemorates the Battle of Sitka, the only armed conflict between Alaska Natives and Europeans. Relics of the 1898 gold rush are preserved at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.
Several parks embody the state’s nickname The Last Frontier because of their remote locations. They are generally accessible only by chartered planes and recommended only to those adventurers who are confident in their outdoor survival skills. Lying entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, the northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains, is the second largest national park in the United States. The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are located in the Kobuk Valley National Park. A rich array of Arctic wildlife can be found in this park and the neighboring Noatak National Preserve, including caribou, grizzly and black bear, wolf, and fox. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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