Unit 6: Upper Teklanika River
Description: The northern part of this unit contains rolling hills and dwarf birch shrubland. The midsection of the unit includes Cathedral Mountain on the west side of Teklanika River and Double Mountain on the east. Cathedral Mountain is made up of many small alpine valleys with interconnecting passes. The southern end of the unit is the headwaters of the Teklanika River and the large glacier basins that feed it. The wide, open hillsides and ridges of the headwaters are covered with dry tundra.
Tips and Special Features
The Teklanika River is a wide, open gravel bar and the stream is well-braided from its headwaters to the confluence with Calico Creek (about 3.5 miles south from Igloo Campground). The river is generally crossable (except during major rain events) south of Calico Creek. All summer, crossings north of Calico Creek are far more difficult and sometimes impossible on foot. Traveling downstream on the east side of the Teklanika River north of Calico Creek is not recommended as there are few crossings to get you back to the Park Road. The steep and rocky pass at the headwaters of Calico Creek is a way to drop into the Upper Sanctuary River (Unit 5). Important information about the east side of this pass is provided in the Unit 5 description.
There are many opportunities for multi-day hikes in the southern headwaters of the Teklanika. All the major tributaries contain glaciers that are rapidly retreating, leaving behind piles of glacial moraine. The glaciers at the Teklanika headwaters offer a unique destination since none of them can be seen from the Park Road. These tributaries are surrounded by miles of open tundra hillsides and steep mountains. It is about 12 miles from Igloo Campground to the scenic headwaters of the Teklanika. There is one more major pass that leads east from this headwaters area into the Sanctuary River valley (Unit 5). It is very steep scree and more difficult than the pass over Calico Creek. It can be covered with steep, unstable snow fields into July, particularly on the east side.
It is also possible to get off the bus on the south side of Cathedral Mountain and travel on the high ridgeline between Unit 6 and the Upper East Fork drainage (Unit 7). If you try to camp on this ridge, it can be difficult to find a spot out of sight of the road.
Did You Know?
Warmer temperatures have led to dramatic thawing of permafrost. Thaw releases carbon, as once-frozen materials decompose, but allows increased plant growth. Researchers in Denali are studying whether thawing permafrost will increase or decrease world-wide carbon emissions.