Denali State Park Historical Info
Denali State Park is an integral part of one of North America's most spectacularly beautiful regions. The park's 324,240 acres, almost one-half the size of Rhode Island, provide the visitor with a great variety of recreational opportunities, ranging from roadside camping to wilderness exploration.
The park is about 100 air miles north of Anchorage and is divided roughly in half by the George Parks Highway, the major road link between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Situated between the Talkeetna Mountains to the east and the Alaska Range to the west, the landscape varies from meandering lowland streams to alpine tundra. Dominating this diverse terrain are Curry and Kesugi Ridges, a 35 mile-long north/south alpine ridge, the backbone of the eastern half of the park.
Denali State Park was established in 1970 and expanded to its present size in 1976. Its western boundary is shared with a much larger neighbor, Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly Mt. McKinley National Park.
"Kesugi" is a Tanaina Indian dialect word meaning 'The Ancient One" and is a fitting complement of the Tanana Indian word 'Denali," which means 'The High One." Denali is the original name for Mt. McKinley. At 20,306 feet, McKinley is North America's highest peak, and literally and figuratively towers over Southcentral Alaska from its base in Denali National Park.
The great mountain and its companion peaks are accented by spectacular valley glaciers and steep ice-carved gorges and a year-round mantle of snow and ice above 8,000 feet. These glaciers, such as the Ruth, Buckskin, and Eldridge, are from 14 to 38 miles long and up to 4 miles wide. They flow from the high peaks and melt into the broad U-shaped Chulitna Valley, giving the Chulitna River the milky waters and braided channels that are typical of a glacial stream. Though only 35 miles from the summit of McKinley, the flood plain of the Chulitna is but 550 feet in elevation.
The beauty of McKinley and the Alaska Range from the Peters Hills was captured on large canvas oil paintings by preeminent Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence in the early part of this century. When the railroad trip from Seward and Anchorage to Fairbanks took two days, travelers in the early 1900's sometimes stayed an extra day at Curry to ascend the east side of Curry Ridge and gaze upon Mt. McKinley and its wonders from Curry Lookout. This small hexagonal-shaped building still weathers storms on the ridge.