Of the 63 U.S. national parks, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the largest, one with 9,000 miles of roads. To put it into perspective, the park has more acreage than Switzerland, and according to “National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks,” the park contains 85,000 miles of rivers and streams, 21,000 buildings, 18,000 miles of trails and 43,000 miles of shoreline.
On Nov. 16, 1978, President Jimmy Carter designated 11 million acres of land in Alaska as U.S. national monuments and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was formed on Nov. 12, 1980, via the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park was created to maintain scenic beauty of the riparian dominated landscapes and the diverse geologic and glacial features. Another purpose was to protect the wildlife and habitats in addition to continuing to provide access for a wide range of wilderness based recreational activities and to continue the opportunities for subsistence use.
Within the national park, Mt. St. Elias, the third highest peak in North America, rises 18,008’ above the Pacific. By comparison, Mount Whitney in Calif., the highest mountain in the lower 48 states stands at 14,505’ as part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Danali, the highest mountain on the continent, towers 20,310’ as part of the Alaskan Range, and it is one mile higher from its base to its summit than Mount Everest.
Mount Logan in Canada is the second highest mountain in North America. It stands at 19,551’ and is part of the St. Elias Mountains.
Within the boundary of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the park’s terrain shares Earth’s largest non-polar ice body with Canada, an ice body that has a 1,500 mile border. The park, which is 30 percent glaciated, features the Hubbard Glacier, North America’s largest tidewater glacier that stretches for 70 miles.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is more than five times larger than Yellowstone National Park which was established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, as the nation’s first national park. Yellowstone National Park is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, extending from Wyo. into Mont. and Idaho to cover 3,472 square miles which is 2,221,776 acres.
To view Wrangell-St. Elias National Park’s Malaspina Glacier, Earth’s largest piedmont glacier, visitors to the park rely on airplanes for sightseeing to view huge portions of icebergs breaking loose and crashing into the sea.
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