• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain


    National Park & Preserve Alaska

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Sound monitoring station at Kahiltna Pass, 2007.

An NPS mountain rescue helicopter flys over a sound monitoring station at 10,500 ft on Mt. McKinley's West Buttress climbing route, 2007.

NPS Photo - Jared Withers

Many different natural sounds can be heard in Denali National Park and Preserve -- the howling of wolves, the buzz of mosquitoes, the roar of rivers, the thunder of avalanches, the singing of migrant songbirds, the croaking of ravens, and the surreal experience of hearing total silence. The natural soundscape is an intrinsic element of the environment and is highly valued in national parks.

Different habitats have specific soundscape characteristics that are an important attribute of the natural system, with distinct impacts on the human perception of the environment. The natural soundscape is generally comprised of two main sound categories, physical and biological. Physical sounds are created by physical forces (wind, rock fall, rivers, etc.), whereas biological sounds are created by organisms (birds, frogs, plants, etc.). The presence and abundance of sounds from these two categories is used in part to characterize different habitats. Human-generated sounds sometimes negatively impact the natural soundscape and visitor experience.

Soundscape Inventory and Monitoring Program

An important component of the National Park Service mission is to preserve and/or restore the natural soundscapes within national parks. Because the soundscape of Denali National Park and Preserve is becoming increasingly impacted by human-generated noise, a soundscape inventory and monitoring program is underway at the park. Park scientists are systematically documenting natural and human-generated sounds at numerous locations throughout the park including high in the mountains, on glaciers, along rivers, in remote areas, and along the park road.

View a program fact sheet (2010)

Currently, park staff are sampling acoustic conditions at as many as 8 new locations per year in an effort to inventory the soundscape of the entire park and investigate areas of special management concern. Automated sound monitoring stations are deployed and collect continuous data for one month, which scientists then analyze and use to compile a representative acoustic profile for that location. This includes the frequency, distribution, and intensity of naturally occurring, as well as human-generated sounds.

Collected Data

Automated sound monitoring stations collect several types of data which allow for the characterization of soundscape conditions. Continuous audio recordings are stored and later played back to a human listener, who identifies what sounds are audible. Sound pressure levels are logged once a second, 24 hours per day, and provide a calibrated measurement of the amount of acoustical energy present at all times. Meteorological data are also stored to ensure measurements are made under appropriate atmospheric conditions.

In depth analysis and discussion of acoustic data collected in Denali National Park can be found in the following annual program reports:

Overflights Advisory Council

The Denali Aircraft Overflights Advisory Council was chartered in 2007 through the Federal Advisory Committee Act with the task of advising the Superintendent, through the Secretary of the Interior, on mitigation of impacts from aircraft overflights at Denali National Park and Preserve. The Council will develop voluntary measures for assuring the safety of passengers, pilots, and mountaineers and for achieving desired future resource conditions. Denali's Sound Program is working intensely to collect and interpret acoustic data so that the Council may make informed recommendations based on good science.

2009 Park Science Article: Soundscapes Monitoring and an Overflights Advisory Council - Informing real-time management decisions at Denali National Park & Preserve.

Want to know more?

More information on national park soundscapes can be found at the website for the National Park Service's Natural Sounds Program:



eResource: Denali Soundscapes
(10.1 MB SWF download)

Explore data from as many as 30 soundscape study locations in years between 2006 and 2009. Each site provides a summary and descriptions that include GPS location, elevation, ecoregion and sampling period, plus as many as nine charts of specific site findings.

Did You Know?

an arctic ground squirrel on its hind legs

Nearly 500 vegetation plots have been installed in Denali, to monitor climate change. Warmer temperatures allow woody plants to grow at higher elevations, invading the fragile and unique plants already in high alpine tundra - and threatening the animals that depend on those specialized plants.