Roughly half of the main road through Denali National Park and Preserve will remain closed next year as park officials contend with landslide issues.
Park officials announced that buses and cars will be able to access up to mile 43 of the 92-mile Denali Park Road, but the remainder will be closed. The closure comes at a location known as Pretty Rocks, where landslides have become commonplace.
“We look forward to getting started on the long-term solution at Pretty Rocks. Meanwhile, Denali is ready for visitors in 2022,” deputy superintendent Brooke Merrell said in a press release. “We will continue to have access to great wildlife viewing, views of Denali, front-country trails, and backcountry hiking and camping,” she added.
The long-term solution Merrell is referring to is construction of a permanent bridge over the slide area. Construction was originally slated for 2023, but the National Parks Service and Federal Highways Administration have been working to identify funding sources to move up the timetable.
“Denali National Park and Preserve will continue to work with inholders, neighbors, and partners to ensure an unforgettable Denali experience during construction,” Merrell said.
The road west of Mile 43 was closed to nonessential vehicles in August because of the landslides. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the roadbed has slumped about 30 feet since September 6.
“Given the acceleration trend, the NPS expects landslide movement over this winter will exceed the park’s ability to restore or maintain the road surface to safely allow for bus traffic,” the NPS said in its release.
The Pretty Rocks landslide in the 1990s first created small cracks in the road surface. Those are now increasing to 3.5 inches per day, Merrell said.
In August, the NPS determined it could no longer maintain a safe road surface and began working toward moving up construction of the bridge.
Denali National Park and Preserve is home to North America’s tallest peak at 20,310 feet. The park covers 6 million acres of land and has just a single road and entrance.
It is home to all types of wildlife and few trails, allowing the animals to roam freely. There are six campgrounds but no NPS-run lodging on the grounds.
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