Posted by: lle2010 | September 5, 2010

Week 37 – Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska


Lions, tigers and bears…would you believe…caribou, moose and bears! 

Denali National Park and preserve covers 6 million acres or 7,370 square miles.  That is larger than the state of Massachusetts.  It was originally established to protect the large mammals that call the park home.  Denali, which means “High One” is the name the Athabascan native people gave the largest peak (Mount McKinley).  The mountain range that is home to Mount McKinley stretches 600 miles.

On our visit, we boarded a park service shuttle bus which actually is a renovated school bus.  Because we were with a tour, we were picked  up from our hotel.  Within approximately 10 to 15 minutes we arrived at the entrance to the park.  If you are driving a private vehicle, you are only allowed to go to mile 14.   A park ranger will stop you at that point and you will be asked to turn around or you can pick up the park shuttle bus.  However, you will have to make prior arrangements for this service.  The road actually goes for about 90 miles.  The shuttles are only allowed to travel to mile 61.  Our bus took us to that point.  Oh and I should point out that the road is not paved the entire 90 plus miles.  Because of all the rain we were experiencing, and not having a paved road, the bus windows became very dirty very quickly.  This offered a challenge for our spotting and viewing the animals.

Along the way, our guide Matt, spoke to us non stop.  He pointed out wildlife, told stories of the park and gave us a wonderful overview on the history of the park.  Whenever he stopped the bus for us to view the wildlife, he would film the encounter and we all were able to view the animals on the drop down video screens.  Trying to take photos was a real challenge.  One, it was raining rather hard at times, and two everyone wanted to get the best shot and viewing position possible.  And, who could blame them.  Also, in our excitement, it was hard to stay quite.  You don’t realize how loud you are until you have to be quite.  Sometimes the least bit of noise will scare the animals  away.  I think we forget just how keen their hearing can be.  If you are on a bus that stays quite, and are patient, the animals will come right down to the road and cross your path.  That is exactly what happen with the grizzly bear.  Our patience paid off when the momma bear and her two cubs made their way down the side of the mountain and crossed the street in front of the bus.  We all had to be quick with the cameras because bear move very quickly!  The photos I have posted may not be the very best, but they were my very best given the shooting circumstances.

Cub #1

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm  f5.6  1/200  ISO 400

Cub #2

  Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm  f5.6  1/100  ISO 400

Momma Bear

 Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm f5.6  1/160  ISO 400

During the day we not only saw the bear, but we came upon dall sheep, moose, caribou, and eagles.  We did not get to see any wolves, fox or lynx.  There is actually 37 mammal species and 156 species of birds recorded in the park. On our outing we really only saw a very small number of the animals that reside in the park.  I did not take any eagle photos, they were too far off to really get a nice photo and that was the same for the dall sheep.  But, here is what I got of the caribou and the moose.   By the way, the difference between a caribou and a reindeer is the caribou lives in the wild and the reindeer lives in captivity. 


Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm  f5.6  1/160   -1/3 Exposure Comp.  ISO 100

Heard of Caribou

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm  f5.6   1/160   -1/3 Exposure Comp.  ISO 100

Bull Moose

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 200 mm   f5.6   1/160  ISO 100

As the day progressed, the rain stopped and some of the most beautiful rainbows were displayed.  There for a while, every time the bus made its way around a curve, there was another rainbow.  Here are a couple of photos from that day.  The first one was a close up taken from the bus and the second was taken when the bus made a stop at a viewing area.  It was breath-taking!

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 170 mm  f8   1/400  ISO 100

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 60 mm  f11  1/400   -2/3 Exposure Comp.  ISO 100

The following is a photo of one of the river beds.  The water that flows is gray in color.  We were told this is glacial water and is gray due to the silt in the water.  I do not remember which river this is in the park.  I really wanted to show the gray color and the fact it was moving quickly.

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 90 mm  f13   1/400  ISO 400

When our tour was complete, Deb and I asked Matt if we could be dropped off at the Visitor Center instead of returning directly to the hotel.  He told us it was not a problem and that there was a free shuttle bus from the Visitor Center to our hotel.  We wanted to make sure we got our National Park Passport books stamped.  It has become our mission to get as many stamps as possible in our passports.  When we finished touring the Visitor Center we were making our way to the bus stop and this was the view we saw.

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 70 mm  f7.1  1/125  ISO 100

The following  flower (I believe a Dahlia) was growing in a planter tub just outside the entrance to our hotel.  I mentioned last week, that the flowers were vibrant with color.  This is one of the examples.  I just wish I had a macro lens to really capture the detailed beauty.

Canon EOS 40D  18-200 mm at 50 mm  f5.6  1/60  ISO 100  External Flash Canon Speedlite 420EX

The one other special site we did not get to see, was Mt. McKinley/Denali.  The rain and clouds did not allow us a view.  At this point we prepared ourselves that it just may not happen.  Alaska is a very rainy, overcast state in the spring/summer.  But, were we in for a surprise on our way to Anchorage the next day!

If you would like more information about Denali National Park and the National Park Passport book, you may want to visit the following web sites:*Passport-To-Your-National-Parks*/



  1. Hi Linda,

    Great stuff. Although they are all good, the rainbow so low in the valley is an amazing picture. Maybe the best you have posted this year!

    Tommy boy

  2. AWESOME!!! There are more pictures coming, right?

  3. Wow! So cool! I don’t know what you’re talking about – the animal shots are great. We have lots of rainbows in Oregon to but I don’t think I have ever seen one that wide. Spectacular! And, yes, that is a dahlia – beautiful color. Interesting about the difference between reindeer and caribou. I’ve never heard that before. Now that I am caught up, I can’t wait to see more Linda – bring on the ice!

  4. These were certainly worth the wait, Linda. The rainbow shot is breathtaking, the flower close-up is awesome, and the wildlife shots incredible. You have really captured the beauty of the place–you make me want to go there! Thanks for sharing these images.

    • Hi Joan,

      Thanks for taking the time to view the photos. I have to say, if you enjoy nature and wildlife and the opportunity arises, GO to Alaska. It is beautiful! If you are looking for sunny days and warm temps this is not the place for you. Overall we had nice weather, but it does rain alot! There are more phots to come. It is difficult trying to chose the better shots and what will capture the beauty. I don’t think the photos do it justice.


  5. Great photos Linda. Brings back incredible memories!!!! I still can’t get over the rainbows!

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