All About Denali Park | From The Denali Summer Times
Nenana Canyon River Adventure Just north of the park entrance, the Nenana River cuts its way through the Alaska Range at the Nenana Canyon on the Parks Highway. The Nenana Canyon forms spectacular scenery and great rapids for river rafting. You’ll come here for shopping and services.
You can walk from the park entrance area to the hotels and shops in the Nenana Canyon.Photo, Northcountry
The Nenana River Canyon has hotels, restaurants, a boardwalk, a gas station, gift shops, cafes – and adventure tours, including several rafting companies. A paved, 10-foot wide bike path and walkway runs from the Denali Park visitor center to the end of the Canyon business district. The Canyon’s restaurant and shopping area has two stoplights, so pedestrians can cross safely from one side of the Parks Highway to the other. The buildings in the Canyon are closed in the winter and the stoplights are turned off. But in the summer this is a hub of commerce. The Canyon seems surprisingly busy, especially after you’ve traveled down miles of highway or railway surrounded by nothing but wilderness. Dozens of buses transport hundreds of people to and from the train, the park, local activities and up and down the Parks Highway. In the Canyon, you’ll find plenty of souvenirs and places to buy equipment, and guides who are willing to take you on a wide range of activities.
Hotels and restaurants in the Canyon have spectacular views of either the Nenana River or of nearby mountains, which can be seen from the steep canyon hillside. The Nenana Canyon is technically 3,000 feet deep, is glacially fed, and has Class III and IV rapids, called “Iceworm,” “Cable Car,” “Razor Back,” and “Royal Flush.”
Healy >Back to the top Just 12 Miles North of the Park Entrance Many people who work in and around Denali Park live in Healy. And, as the closest town to the north of the park entrance, Healy plays a large part in the Denali National Park tourist experience. It’s a favorite spot for independent, or road-based tourists, exploring the area. It has campgrounds, hotels, and restaurants. If you want to explore Alaska there are: ATV, bicycle, raft, kayak and horse adventure businesses. There is even a golf course! Travelers like the way things are a little more spread out in Healy.
You'll see wild swans along the road on your way north. This swan's neck has been stained a rust color by the iron in wilderness lakes. Photo, Kevin Hamel, Totem Inn Coal Mining Town The area around Denali Park is rich in metals – including copper, lead, silver, zinc and antimony. But Healy, 12 miles north of the Denali Park entrance, is a coal mining town. Life here is centered around the Usibelli Coal Mine – and the local school. There are 95 employees at the mine. About a third of them are second or third generation Usibelli workers. The subituminous coal that comes from the mine is used for power generation. In 2006, Usibelli mined 1.4 million tons of coal. The coal is used in 6 power plants in Interior Alaska, and railed to the coastal port of Seward to destinations in South Korea and South America.
Anderson, Clear and Tetlanika >Back to the top Getting Clear about Anderson The small town of Anderson, six miles off the Parks Highway at Mile 283.5, is a child of the Cold War. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the federal government began an early warning missile detection program. Clear Air Force Station became part of that program, and Anderson became the town that housed the construction workers and support personnel of the base. Anderson is known for its Blue Grass Country Music Festival, held every year during the last weekend in July.
The land flattens out, the rivers get bigger, and the summer weather gets warmer as you head north. This is big river country near Tetlanika, where a gardener is growing vegetables for restaurants near Denali Park. Photo, Northcountry
Nenana >Back to the top Railroad Town Nenana’s location was important in the Gold Rush, when it had a trading post and roadhouse for river travelers. Children from downriver villages came to school in Nenana. Gold miners arrived by the thousands in 1909, and by 1915, the Alaska Railroad had its workers here. In 1923, the railroad was finished. President Warren G. Harding came to Alaska to mark the completion of the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks by driving a golden spike into the track. When Harding arrived, Nenana had 5,000 residents. By 1930, there were only 291 people left in the town. A road bridge wasn’t built across the Tanana River at Nenana until 1968.
This tripod is standing right beside the visitor center on the corner in Nenana. The tripod has become the symbol of Nenana. Every spring, a tripod is put in the middle of the river on the ice. You can place a bet on when the tripod will tip over the next spring (sometime in April or May.) Nenana is a great town – one that you shouldn't miss. Go down to the river, and see the Tanana flow by, on its way to the mighty Yukon – the most fabled river of the North. Photo, Northcountry Breaking the Ice in Nenana The Nenana Ice Classic is a direct link to old-time Alaska. It began in 1917 when bored railroad workers whiled away the days of spring guessing when the ice would go out on the Tanana River and river traffic could start again. The Classic is now a statewide event. People all over the state guess when break-up will occur.