Alaska Park Is Nation's Largest
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
So a few minutes might be all you need to tour the country's smallest national park, but the largest - well, that will take you much, much longer. At 13.2 million acres, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in eastern Alaska is the country's biggest national park. It's six times the size of Yellowstone.
Smitty Parratt is the chief park interpreter at Wrangell-St. Elias. He joins me on the phone from the park right now.
What kind of day is out there?
NORRIS: Today, we have some clouds coming in and it's hard to say what the weather will do, but it hasn't been doing what the weather forecasters have been predicting.
NORRIS: So if you wanted to travel at least part of the 13.2 million acres, what might you see in his huge expanse of a park?
NORRIS: You would see nine of the 16 highest peaks in North America. You would see one quarter of the entire park covered with ice, and over 60 percent of all the ice in the state of Alaska is within the boundaries of the Wrangell-St. Elias. So you'd see the largest tidewater glacier in North America, the largest subpolar ice field in North America, the largest piedmont glacier in North America, the largest mountain valley glacier in North America, and a lot of open country with no people in it.
NORRIS: Now, do I hear pride in your voice as you describe all of these?
NORRIS: You do. Everyone has heard about some of the parks such as Denali, Yellowstone where people flock to see the wonders of those places, but very few have heard of our largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, and for that reason, visitors to this park have a good chance to experience solitude and wild adventure where they can hike for days or even weeks and see no one.
NORRIS: The national parks are like gems; many times we will visit them again and again and again, and often go to the same place again and again. What is your favorite spot in the Wrangell-St. Elias Preserve?
NORRIS: Well, one place that is one of my favorites was a hike out of Kennicott, a famous copper mine, across two glaciers, up Hidden Creek Valley, past the lake that floods out under the Kennicott Glacier every summer, up to a mountain pass, not knowing how we were going to get down into the Lakina valley with my wife and with beautiful meadows and flowers and glistening glaciers everywhere, enjoying nature and solitude.
NORRIS: My, that sounds beautiful.
NORRIS: It was. And it was a real challenge getting down into the Lakina Valley...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NORRIS: Well, glad you got in and out safely. Thanks so much for talking to us. All the best to you.
NORRIS: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: Smitty Parratt is the chief park interpreter at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. That's the biggest national park in the United States.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
And if you wanted to see some of the sites from national parks around the country, you can take a tour at npr.org. And while you're there, you can send us photos from your trips to national parks, we'll post some of them at our Web site later this week.