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By the Numbers: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve


Hubbard Glacier dumps icebergs into the sea along a six-mile wide calving surface. NPS photo.

Six times the size of Yellowstone, 25 percent covered in glacial ice, and home to an active volcano, Wrangell-St..Elias generates some wonderful numbers.


Total acreage, including 8,323,147 acres in the National Park and 4,852,753 acres in the National Preserve. At 20,587 square miles, Wrangell-St. Elias is by far the largest of the 392 units in the National Park System.


Acres of federally designated wilderness. That’s 14,185 square miles. There’s no larger wilderness tract in the National Wilderness Preservation System.


The park’s base budget for FY 2009.


Peak daily sediment transport, in cubic feet, of the Copper River. The fourth siltiest river in the world, the Copper adds an estimated 75 million tons of sediment to its delta each year.


Reported recreational visits in 2008.


Elevation, in feet, of Mount. St. Elias, the highest peak in the park and the second highest peak in the United States.


Approximate depth, in feet, of the 127-mile long Bagley Icefield, the largest sub-polar icefield on the continent.


Approximate area, in square miles, of the Malaspina Glacier, the largest non-polar piedmont glacier in North America.


Years in age of the ice that the 76 mile-long Hubbard Glacier dumps into the sea along its six mile-wide calving surface. The Hubbard is the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska and one of the longest tidewater glaciers on the planet.


Cubic miles of lava thought to be available to 14,163 foot-high Mt. Wrangell, the highest and largest of Alaska’s active volcanoes.


Number of lichen species documented in the park.


Combined length of the park’s two gravel roads, the McCarthy Road (59 miles) and the Nabesna Road (42 miles).


Approximate length, in miles, of the Nabesna Glacier, the longest non-polar valley glacier.


Number of permanent employees. This year the park also had 3 term employees and 80 seasonals. (In 2008, 81 volunteers contributed 3,062 hours.)


Percentage of Wrangell-St. Elias covered by glacial ice.


Number of public-use cabins within the park. Most are restored mining, trapping, or hunting cabins in remote locations. Some are accessible only by bush plane.


Number of major mountain ranges that converge in this NPS unit, including the Wrangell, St. Elias, Chugach, and Alaskan Ranges. The St. Elias Range is the highest coastal mountain range in the world


Number of improved airstrips in the park. The one at McCarthy is maintained by the State of Alaska and the ones at Chisana and May Creek are maintained by the park.


Number of reptile species known to inhabit the park.

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Record low temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, at Gulkana. In January, the average daily minimum temperature at Gulkana is -14 Fahrenheit.


A line from the park film "Crown of the Continent", seen on PBS, captures the size of the place best for me: "One national park, larger than Switzerland -- with higher mountains."

Terrific film of an awesome place.

I haven't seen that particular park film yet, Anon, but it's now on my must-see list. Thanks for the tip.

If you google its full title it will give you an idea of when it will be on PBS again in your area: "Crown of the Continent - Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias". It's stunning in HD.

For that matter, why not a list of park films, i.e., great films on or about national parks? Not just features shot in national parks.

Anon, do you have any idea how long it would take to finish the project you're recommending?! The list of documentaries and made-for-TV/DVD films about national parks must surely run into the many hundreds, and just sorting out the great ones would be a time-eater of sobering proportions. It's a fine idea in concept, though, so we'll not dismiss it out-of-hand. My idea of the moment would be to tackle the job in piecemeal fashion, perhaps starting with the made-for-TV/DVD films about Yellowstone National Park. Does that approach sound OK to you? If not, can you put me in touch with somebody willing to work with me on the larger-scale project? I can promise long hours, no pay, and my eternal gratitude.

Such 20th century analog thinking. This is a community, a social site with thousands of readers -- put the collective community to work: solicit readers' top ten, or top five lists of park films, with a one-line description of each film and why they think it's great. Kurt has already done the heavy lifting: he created the site. Now ask the community to contribute.

Jeez, Anon, you need to cut me some slack on that 20th century thinking issue. I spent 57 years in the last century, and only 10 so far in this one. Takes me a while to get the hang of it.

Here's a "park" film that should be at the top of every list, though it's not about Yellowstone: "Yosemite - The Fate of Heaven". I recommend it as the best film on national parks ever made, no contest. I've screened it and spoken about it at film festivals several times.

It was shown on PBS/American Experience several years ago. Made in 1989, I don't think it's available on DVD but you can find used VHS tapes on Amazon on occasion; doesn't seem to be sold by the Yosemite Association, which funded it.

It addresses the endless conundrum of preservation v. access but in a poignant, intelligent and affecting interpretive fashion. No one will confuse it with a government management video, or a Ken Burns leviathan, even a film just on Yosemite -- it's much more universal than that. Gorgeous music by Academy Award winner Todd Boekelheide, terrific photography by filmmaker Jon Else, superb reads from Lafayette Bunnell's journal by Robert Redford and best of all, wise and twinkly philosophical commentary by storied ranger Carl Sharsmith. When he falls to his knees in the snows of Tuolomne Meadows at the end of the film . . . it is as beautiful a sequence as I've ever seen in film, any film.

You don't have to be a fan of national parks to love this show. But you will definitely love Carl Sharsmith.

Thanks for the headsup on this fine Yosemite film, John. It clearly deserves an honored place on the appropriate "TV/DVD films about parks" list. Let me now suggest that we hold off on the discussion of TV/DVD films about parks, at least for the moment. It's a great thread, but it's sort of lost in its present place -- that is, appended to an article entitled "By the Numbers: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve."

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