In its 105-year history, a woman has never served as the superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. That, however, is about to change.
Brooke Merrell, who is currently deputy superintendent at Denali and has been acting superintendent for the past 9 months, has now been selected to serve as the park’s superintendent, the National Park Service (NPS) announced.
“I am honored to be selected for the job at Denali National Park and Preserve and am dedicated to supporting this incredible park and community,” Merrell said. “There is so much passion for park resources from both park staff and members of the community, and I look forward to leveraging this for everyone’s benefit.”
Merrell went on to add, “I am also excited for the opportunity to continue working with all of our partners, our valued inholders, and the business community to find common ground and solutions for the challenges ahead.”
Merrell’s Respected Credentials
Merrell first traveled to Alaska in 2009 as a National Park Foundation Transportation Scholar working on a statewide NPS long-range transportation plan. And, while she had never considered living in Alaska before, she soon joined the NPS’s Alaska Region permanently as a transportation planner. She then went on to serve as the regional environmental coordinator, and then team lead for Environmental Planning and Compliance at the NPS Region 11 office in Anchorage.
Next, Merrell served as acting deputy superintendent at Denali. Then, in January of 2021, Merrell became Denali’s deputy superintendent, “and immediately took on some of the park’s most challenging issues, most notably developing a solution to the Pretty Rocks Landslide,” the NPS explains.
“I am absolutely thrilled with Brooke’s selection to lead Denali National Park and Preserve,” Alaska Regional Director Sarah Creachbaum said. “Brooke has already proven she is an exceptional leader, and I expect her transition as the permanent superintendent at Denali will be seamless.”
An Alaskan, And American, Treasure
Denali National Park and Preserve was created by Congress in 1917. To this day, the 6-million-acre park remains largely preserved, so it only has one entrance and one road — the 92-mile-long Denali Park Road. In the summer, only tour and transit buses are allowed access into the heart of the park.
There are two good reasons why a trip to Denali is on many people’s bucket list. First, the park, which is 240 miles from Anchorage and 120 miles from Fairbanks, is home to Denali — formerly known as Mount McKinley. With an elevation of 20,310 feet, it is the tallest peak in North America.
Secondly, wildlife viewing at Denali is spectacular. That’s because there are 39 species of mammals in Denali, including moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears, arctic ground squirrels, and all-white snowshoe hares, as well as 169 species of birds.
Visitation to Denali dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic due to various travel restrictions. For instance, in 2021, less than 230,000 visitors traveled to the park, according to the NPS. However, in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, 601,152 people visited Denali.
Know Before You Go
As the NPS notes, “Planning a trip to Denali can be a big undertaking!”
Fortunately, the NPS has a table you can use for trip-planning. That way, you can start to plan how you’ll visit the park and determine what you can see and do based on how long you’ll be at Denali.
You can find that table and more information about visiting Denali here.
Be sure to also visit our Denali National Park and Preserve content, including: