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Alaska Range

Alaska Range
Rugged peaks of the Alaska Range near Denali
Highest point
Peak Denali
Elevation 6,190.5 m (20,310 ft)
Country United States
State Alaska
Borders on Pacific Coast Ranges

The Alaska Range is a relatively narrow, 650-km-long (400 mi) mountain range in the southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaska, from Lake Clark at its southwest end[1] to the White River in Canada's Yukon Territory in the southeast. The highest mountain in North America, Denali, is in the Alaska Range.

The range is the highest in the world outside of Asia and the Andes.


  • Description and history 1
    • Naming history 1.1
  • Major peaks 2
  • Subranges (from west to east) 3
  • Documented wilderness traverses of Alaska Range 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7

Description and history

View of Alaska Range from Denali National Park
View from Denali National Park

The range forms a generally east-west arc with its northernmost part in the center, and from there trending southwest towards the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians, and trending southeast into the Pacific Coast Ranges. The mountains act as a high barrier to the flow of moist air from the Gulf of Alaska northwards, and thus has some of the harshest weather in the world. The heavy snowfall also contributes to a number of large glaciers, including the Canwell, Castner, Black Rapids, Susitna, Yanert, Muldrow, Eldridge, Ruth, Tokositna, and Kahiltna Glaciers. Four major rivers cross the Range, including the Delta River, and Nenana River in the center of the range and the Nabesna and Chisana Rivers to the east.

Alaska Range Glacier

The range is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and the Denali Fault that runs along the southern edge of the range is responsible for a number of earthquakes. Mount Spurr is a stratovolcano located in the northeastern end of the Aleutian Volcanic Arc of Alaska, USA which has two vents, the summit and nearby Crater Peak.

Parts of the range are protected within Anchorage to Fairbanks, the Richardson Highway from Valdez to Fairbanks, and the Tok Cut-Off from Gulkana Junction to Tok, Alaska pass through low parts of the range. The Alaska Pipeline parallels the Richardson Highway.

Naming history

The name "Alaskan Range" appears to have been first applied to these mountains in 1869 by naturalist W. H. Dall. The name eventually became "Alaska Range" through local use. In 1849 Constantin Grewingk applied the name "Tschigmit" to this mountain range. A map made by the General Land Office in 1869 calls the southwestern part of the Alaska Range the "Chigmit Mountains" and the northeastern part the "Beaver Mountains".[2] However the Chigmit Mountains are now considered part of the Aleutian Range.

Major peaks

Denali, on a rare clear day

Subranges (from west to east)

Alaska Range Mountain Peaks

Documented wilderness traverses of Alaska Range

The Denali Highway passes through the Alaska Range and offers travelers a close up-look at some of the lower peaks
  • Mentasta Lake to Kitchatna Mountains (1981): Scott Woolums, George Beilstein, Steve Eck, and Larry Coxen by skis: first traverse. 375 miles (604 km) in 45 days.[3]
  • Canada to Lake Clark (1996): Roman Dial, Carl Tobin, and Paul Adkins by mountain bike and packraft: first full length traverse. 775 miles (1,247 km) in 42 days.[4]
  • Tok to Lake Clark (1996): Kevin Armstrong, Doug Woody, and Jeff Ottmers by snowshoe, foot, and packraft: first foot traverse. 620 miles (1,000 km) in 90 days.[5]

See also


Gulkana Glacier flows from the ice fields of the Alaska Range
  1. ^ a b Sources differ as to the exact delineation of the Alaska Range. The Board on Geographic Names entry is inconsistent; part of it designates Iliamna Lake as the southwestern end, and part of the entry has the range ending at the Telaquana and Neacola Rivers. Other sources identify Lake Clark, in between those two, as the endpoint. This also means that the status of the Neacola Mountains is unclear: it is usually identified as the northernmost subrange of the Aleutian Range, but it could also be considered the southernmost part of the Alaska Range.
  2. ^ Name history from the Board on Geographic Names entry for the Alaska Range.
  3. ^ American Alpine Journal (1982), Vol. 24. Pages 137-138
  4. ^ "A Wild Ride," National Geographic Magazine (1997), Vol. 191. Pages 118-131
  5. ^ American Alpine Journal (1997), Vol. 39. Pages 169-170

Further reading

  • Churkin, M., Jr., and C. Carter. (1996). Stratigraphy, structure, and graptolites of an Ordovician and Silurian sequence in the Terra Cotta Mountains, Alaska Range, Alaska [U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1555]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
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