Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in North America. The park and preserve together cover 9,492 mi² (24,585 km²). The Denali National Park is fascinating and memorable for a number of reasons. First, of course, is magnificent Mount McKinley, which at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America. Then there's the wildlife. Take one of Denali National Park's bus tours and you're likely to see grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and wolves. Finally, there's the gorgeous and varied color of the park's lakes and rivers, geologic formations, and tundra landscape. Spend time at the Denali Visitor Center, located at the park's northeast entrance, to learn about the seasons and the natural history of Denali, and to get information about available park tours, activities, and recreation.
The park was originally established to protect its large mammals, not because of majestic Mount McKinley. Charles Sheldon conceived the plan to conserve the region as a national park. Naturalist, hunter, and conservationist, Sheldon first traveled here in 1906 and again in 1907 with a packer and guide named Harry Karstens. (Karstens later made the first ascent of Mt. McKinley's south peak and would serve as the park's first superintendent.) Sheldon devoted much of his 1907 travels to studying boundaries for the proposed national park that would include territories suitable for a game refuge. When Sheldon returned to the East in 1908, the Game Committee of the Boone and Crockett Club, of which he was chairman, launched the campaign to establish a national park. Largely due to these efforts, Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917. Its population of Dall sheep and other wildlife were now legislatively protected. However, Mount McKinley itself was not wholly included within the boundaries.
Sheldon wanted to call the park Denali, but his suggestion would not be followed until 1980. The changes in names and boundaries that have occurred over the years can be confusing, as they indicate the way various parts of the park and preserve may be used today. In 1917 Mount McKinley National Park was established as a wildlife refuge. The park and massif including North America's highest peak were named for a former senator - later President - William McKinley. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) enlarged the boundary by 4 million acres and redesigned it as Denali National Park and Preserve. At 6 million acres or 7,370 square miles, the park is larger than Massachusetts. It exemplifies interior Alaska's character as one of the world's last great frontiers for wilderness adventure. It remains largely wild and unspoiled, as the Athabascans knew it. On 02 December 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the bill establishing Denali National Park.