Appreciating Alaska’s parks and other public lands
I live in Alaska because I was born and raised here, and it will always feel like home. But I stay in Alaska because it’s the only place on the planet with so much dramatic and varied wilderness. Alaska’s national and state parks alone total nearly 60 million acres. Some of that is right out my back door. Getting away from it all to play on public lands is as easy as hopping in my car and driving 30 minutes to a trailhead. Add a bit longer drive plus an air charter or water taxi, and I could be dropped off in the middle of nowhere to enjoy only my own company for days or weeks on end.
Once out there, though, I wouldn’t really be alone, as so many wild creatures roam the land and water: grizzlies in Denali National Park and Preserve, humpback whales in Kenai Fjords National Park, Dall sheep in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Seeing wildlife is one of the best reasons to visit a national park here. Our state parks are also home to myriad species—from tiny hummingbirds in Kachemak Bay State Park to mighty moose in Chugach State Park. And our refuges, of course, provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, legendary herds of caribou, the nation’s wildest wolf packs, and healthy runs of fish.
Another layer to our public lands is the cultural mix past and present—from Indigenous to colonial to contemporary society’s impact.
In other words, we’re never truly alone out there. Someone or some (other) animal has come before. It’s our job to be good stewards of these unique places set aside for all of us to learn about, appreciate, and experience.
This issue of Alaska magazine brings the parks to you—history, quirky aspects, outdoor adventures, and more. Enjoy it as an armchair traveler, or plan your next trip in the Great Land. And be sure to include a park on your itinerary.