Denali Park Road Capacity Study, 2006 - 2012
The road study was completed in 2012 with the approval of the Denali Park Road 2012 Vehicle Management Plan. This plan marks the start of a new era in the management of the park road.
To examine potential impacts of Park Road traffic on wildlife movements and distribution, researchers deployed GPS collars on 20 Dall's sheep and 20 grizzly bears within the road corridor. Location information and movement paths of collared animals were modeled with habitat and traffic data to determine possible relationships between vehicles on the Park Road and wildlife behavior.
Viewable in Google Earth, data showing the movements of three of the collared bears from the summer of 2006 can be found below. Also available are the movements of two groups of Dall sheep in the summer of 2007. Download the files and open them in Google Earth.
Displaying thousands of points, the data demonstrate what parts of the park these animals frequent, and when. The map below demonstrates the three bears tracked in summer 2006.
Researchers examined the expectations and quality of experiences of Denali Park Road vehicle users. As part of this study, visitors were asked to identify and describe issues important to their experience on the Denali Park Road. The results of these interviews were used to determine indicators and help set standards for visitor experience on the Park road. Park managers are using the indicators and standards to evaluate and manage vehicle.
NPS Photo - John Hourdos
The Denali Park road has very unique traffic patterns affected by a number of factors such as locations of wildlife sightings, numbers and behavior of buses on the road each day, weather, and road maintenance. To account for the effects of these various factors on traffic flow, researchers used GPS and wildlife sighting data collected from vehicles driving the park road in 2006/2007 to create a traffic model capable of simulating location and vehicle specific driving behaviors. The model enabled researchers to vary bus schedule scenarios, wildlife encounter probabilities and other road logistic rules to quantify and visually analyze predicted bunching, travel times, and following distances of buses and other vehicles along the road. The results were used to predict and better manage traffic related impacts on visitor experience and wildlife behavior.
Ultimately, a comprehensive model of park road traffic was developed to predict the effects of changes in traffic volume and timing on visitor experience and wildlife movements. The model results informed the selection of a preferred alternative presented in the Vehicle Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This model suggested that an increase in traffic volume was feasible. The next step is an experimental increase in road traffic, timed so as to produce the greatest value in understanding impacts, as part of a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study. The goal of the road study was to provide park managers with a tool to make well-informed, science-based decisions about the future of traffic on the park road.
Did You Know?
Warmer average temperatures over several decades have resulted in expansion of woody vegetation. If this warming trend continues, it will change Alaska's ecosystems and drastically alter the physical appearance of Denali's landscape, as treeline marches higher up the mountains.