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The Alaska Range is a relatively narrow, 650-km-long (400 mi) mountain range in the southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaskamarker, from Lake Clarkmarker at its southwest end to the White River in Canadamarker's Yukon Territorymarker in the southeast. The highest mountain in North America, Mount McKinleymarker or Denalimarker, is in the Alaska Range.

The range forms a generally east-west arc with its northernmost part in the center, and from there trending southwest towards the Alaska Peninsulamarker and the Aleutiansmarker, 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 Alaskamarker 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 Rivermarker, and Nenana Rivermarker 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. However, there are no volcanoes in the range but several large granite plutons.

Parts of the range are protected within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preservemarker, Denali National Park and Preservemarker, and Lake Clark National Park and Preservemarker. The George Parks Highway from Anchoragemarker to Fairbanksmarker, the Richardson Highway from Valdezmarker to Fairbanks, and the Tok Cut-Offmarker from Gulkana Junction to Tok, Alaskamarker pass through low parts of the range. The Alaska Pipelinemarker parallels the Richardson Highway.

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 "T schigmit" 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". However the Chigmit Mountains are now considered part of the Aleutian Range.

Major peaks

Mount McKinley, on a rare clear day

Subranges (from west to east)

Alaska Range Mountain Peaks

Documented wilderness traverses of Alaska Range

  • Mentasta Lake to Kitchatna Mountains (1981): Scott Woolums, George Beilstein, Steve Eck, and Larry Coxen by skis: first traverse. 375 miles in 45 days.
  • Canada to Lake Clark (1996): Roman Dial, Carl Tobin, and Paul Adkins by mountain bike and packraft: first full length traverse. 775 miles in 42 days.
  • Tok to Lake Clark (1996): Kevin Armstrong, Doug Woody, and Jeff Ottmers by snowshoe, foot, and packraft: first foot traverse. 620 miles in 90 days.


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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