Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali and Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2020

Park Planning


Planning for the Future of Kantishna...Slowly

On September 3rd, park planners published a summary of comments on the July 2019 Kantishna and Wonder Lake Area Plan. The NPS received 338 correspondences, resulting in 1,157 substantive comments. A hearty number of these were from our own guests and staff, and we thank you for your engagement!

The majority of comments questioned the intent of the plan and its process, citing inconsistencies with prior NPS management policy and guiding mission for the Kantishna and Wonder Lake area. Several comments noted the plan’s bias towards recreation over resource protection, as if attempting to induce demand for additional recreational opportunities in the area. Many commenters suggested that a larger majority of visitors would be better served with an expansion of recreational opportunity in areas with more visitor demand such as the park entrance area.

Most comments were opposed to construction of new, long trails over much-needed and overdue maintenance of existing formal and informal trails. Regarding new campground construction, many questioned the level of demand, and most urged co-locating any expansion of camping opportunity at the existing Wonder Lake campground versus creating any new sites in Kantishna or in the backcountry. There was general support for consolidating NPS administrative presence at existing sites versus relocating to a new area.

A revised plan is purportedly forthcoming, although no timeframe has been identified. Any actions proposed by NPS would be preceded with environmental compliance and public review. One outcome of the planning initiative yet this summer may be some formal trail designation, which would facilitate the maintenance, remediation or closure of some of the area’s informal trails. Editorially, it is worth noting that the plan grew in scope from an initial focus on trail management and planning to a much more encompassing emphasis on expansion of recreational opportunity. If the current fiscal climate of the NPS and Denali, in particular, are any indication, we aren’t holding our breath for much movement on this planning effort.

Pretty Rocks Update

One year ago fall, our main concern with the upcoming season was the integrity of the park road at Pretty Rocks on Polychrome Pass. A year and thousands of cubic yards of Toklat River gravel later, the NPS has identified a path forward. As a December 2020 update on the park’s website solidly claims, “the NPS and Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) are collaborating to keep the road operational, resilient and safe for travel under dynamic and changing conditions.”  

In the near term, the park road crew will once again begin spring road plowing a bit earlier than usual in order to begin repairing the road alignment at Pretty Rocks. Some 4800 10-cubic-yard truck loads of gravel were used last spring to fill in the slump. This spring the slide is predicted to have subsided 20 feet since last October. Regular gravel hauling and grading throughout the summer, masterfully achieved in 2020 by the NPS road crew, will remain the way to maintain the road in the interim.

Three medium-term solutions will be evaluated this summer while work is being done on a long-term solution. Building a bridge over the slump, continuing to fill in the slump, and excavating material from above the road to elevate the road bed are all on the table.

Possible long-term solutions include the bridge concept to retain a “mainline route” with the road in its current location, a “north route” constructing five miles of new bypass road over the hills to the north, or a “south route” constructing five miles of new bypass road across the flats and braided rivers to the south. The “mainline route,” already recommended by FHWA, will be identified by NPS as the preferred alternative in a forthcoming planning document. We are heartened by the planning efforts underway.

Back to Online Version 2020