How Many National Parks Are in Alaska?

Alaska is rich in national parks, like Denali, which features North America's tallest mountain.

Enormous and lightly developed, Alaska is a global haven for outdoor and nature enthusiasts. Some of its most stunning quarters are administered as national parks or other public lands, from misty temperate rain forest to windswept tundra on the Arctic Ocean shore. Strictly speaking, Alaska has eight national parks: Denali, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias. All except Kenai Fjords and Kobuk Valley are actually classified as both national parks and national preserves. These holdings cover a great diversity of scenic and wild terrain. Denali National Park and Preserve protects both North America’s highest peak -- Mount McKinley, or Denali -- and wildlife-rich expanses of boreal forest, rolling tundra and braided rivers. Katmai National Park and Preserve features stunning volcanoes and huge brown bears. Many of these parks, like Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic, contain little or no infrastructure and are on a wilderness scale approached by few others places in the world. Mountainous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States at 13.2 million acres.

The Russians have come.. the real invasion - of Delta Junction, Alaska

By big city standards, there's not much traffic in Delta Junction anyway, but on Sunday mornings it's almost non-existent. Save for a gaggle of motorhomes parked at the “end of the Alaska Highway” visitor center, most of the town's vehicles fill one church parking lot or another. A handful of the churches are right off the Richardson Highway, which runs through the Copper River Valley from Valdez to Fairbanks. Also along the Richardson, at Delta Junction's center, are a couple of gas stations, a diner, a grocery store with a mini-mall attached and an espresso cart. But like a lot of small towns in Alaska, Delta actually spreads for miles in all directions. Getting to anyone's Delta home involves driving for what seems like forever down long, straight roads, with nothing but trees and fields along the way.

Alaska a hot topic among geophysicists

When a person searches the word "Alaska" in the computer abstracts for the recent fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, that person gets 265 hits. Many scientists are studying Alaska. Here's what some are finding:

• About 47 percent of ground underlying the Interior -- the land between the Alaska Range and the Brooks Range -- has permafrost beneath it, according to a survey done by Torre Jorgenson of Alaska Biological Research Inc. and Tom George of Terra-Terpret. In a Cessna 185, George flew at 5,000 feet above ground level east to west over the Interior and took digital photographs that Jorgenson analyzed for terrain features that suggested permafrost. In a preliminary count, Jorgenson also calculated that 7 percent of the Interior showed signs of thawed permafrost. In those areas, he saw evidence of thermokarst -- collapsed ground often filled with water or covered with mats of floating vegetation.