A wildlife day in Denali National Park

On Monday (August 10th), I dog-sat while the rest of the group took a shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center and back. On Tuesday, it was my turn. Cathy and MJ really wanted to see the dog sled demonstration, but other than that, none of them had any plans for the day.

I got off to a bad start. I had reserved a 06:30 bus, but somehow didn’t hear the alarm, so didn’t get to the Wilderness Access Center until 7:30. Luckily, the policy is that you can get put on standby for the next available bus, and a lot of people didn’t show for the 08:00 bus so I was able to get on that one.

The weather was iffy and looked like absolutely anything could happen. It was raining a bit at the Teklanika rest stop at Mile 29, which we reached just before 09:30. A grizzly was on the far side of the river and could be seen going in and out of the bushes along the river.

Teklanika River, Denali National Park, Alaska
Twenty minutes after leaving Teklanika, we got our first grizzly beside the road.

Grizzly bear in Denali National Park, Alaska
A few minutes later, he became our first grizzly on the road 🙂

Grizzly bear on the road in Denali National Park, Alaska
Climbing up to Sable Pass, 2 grizzlies were feeding on the slope to the north.

Grizzlies near Sable Pass in Denali National Park, Alaska
Nearing the East Fork of the Toklat River at 10:10, we added caribou to the day’s list – a fine young bull.

Bull caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska
Much of the load of snow now very visible towards Polychrome fell during Cathy’s trip the day before.

August snow in Denali National Park, Alaska
It was our driver’s first year in Denali, and he didn’t known what to do about this fox that trotted down the road in front of us for miles – he’d been told to never get too close to any animal, so as to not stress them. Our driver let another bus go past us, and that driver just drove by the fox, but we waited until the still-stress-free fox decided to get off the road 🙂

Fox on the road in Denali National Park, Alaska
Love the colours and patterns.

August snow in Denali National Park, Alaska
The road approaching Polychrome Overlook.

The road approaching Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
The view from Polychrome Overlook, shot and processed as an HDR image, turned into a painting!

The view from Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
The road between the Toklat River rest stop and Stony Dome is often good for bears, and this trip was no exception.

Grizzly bear near Stony Dome in Denali National Park, Alaska
From Stony Dome, we got a fairly good look at Denali (the mountain known Outside as Mt. McKinley).

Denali, the mountain - Denali National Park, Alaska
We reached the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66 just before noon. This is a beautiful facility, and is my usual choice as the destination for shuttle bus trips. I don’t find continuing on to Wonder Lake at Mile 85 to be good value in terms of time, and Kantishna, at Mile 92, even less so.

Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park, Alaska
With half an hour to spend at Eielson, I decided to climb the fairly steep trail above the center, as it had been years since I’d been up there, and I thought that I might be able to reach the snow. This is looking back down the trail.

Hiking above the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park, Alaska
I didn’t reach the snow, but got some great views. As I was going back down, a grizzly was following me down the trail, though at a respectable distance. I told our driver, who radioed the rangers to let them know the bear was headed their way.

Hiking above the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park, Alaska

Hiking above the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park, Alaska
Four of 6 caribou we saw along the road near Stony Dome.

Caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska
And 10 more on the Toklat River.

Caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska
I posted this photo on a tour bus drivers’ group I belong to on Facebook, to give the drivers who complain about Washington, DC, some perspective 🙂

Denali National Park, Alaska
Traffic on the Denali road!

Caribou on the road in Denali National Park, Alaska
The fireweed and snow provided some stunning views.

Denali National Park, Alaska
These 2 bears in Sable Pass brought our day’s total to 12.

Grizzlies in Sable Pass, Denali National Park, Alaska
Back on the paved public road, just a few miles from the Wilderness Access Center.

Denali National Park, Alaska

I walked back to Riley Creek Campground, where we had another wonderful dinner with our friends and discussed the next day’s drive across the Denali Highway, notorious for its roughness.



Comments

A wildlife day in Denali National Park — 4 Comments

  1. Mr Lundberg, I rode the shuttle bus into Denali as you just discussed, beautiful place, and the weather when I went was similar to your excursion. Rain.

    However, my shuttle bus ride was very irritating, the loudest bunch of people in Alaska at the time, the bus driver told everyone before leaving, if you spotted an animal , be quiet, keep your hands and head inside the windows. The first animal we saw was a wolf…”IT”S A WOLF!” Screamed the passengers, with heads poking out the windows and yelling. To those who have never been, bring ear plugs.

    I would love to ride into Denali in the fall when passenger cars are allowed to a certain point. I also visited the Park kennels (naturally, having several Siberians). One husky at the kennel I spent a lot of time with ,was a husky named Keta.and liked her a lot. I followed her progress over the years on the kennel webpage, and she was retired and adpoted out a couple of years ago.
    I can only imagine what the park is like during the winter.

    Stay dry.

    • Our group was great – not a peep out of anybody. A few years ago, I had a group like yours, though – the driver was LIVID after the pack of wolves left!

  2. Murray, your pictures are sssoooo great ! The weather seems to change every hour. The view from Polychrome overlook in HDR is simply amazing.

  3. great pics, the usual tossup on weather… great wildlife sightings. Riley Creek attracts an interesting bunch of folks right after Labor Day when so much is starting to wind down and close up…(at the park, at the hotels and shops nearby, the # of visitors…) hope to return next year w our canvas wall tent and stove…