• Winter in the Wrangells

    Wrangell - St Elias

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Rivers and Streams

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is an icy, rocky wilderness where only the hardiest survive. Rivers bring life to the region by providing animals, plants, and humans with food and navigable pathways.

One of the most prominent features of the area is the beautiful Copper River Basin. This extensive river system shapes the land and is the lifeblood of the park's ecosystems. It has been central to the region's 9,000 year human history. Rivers provide a metaphor for the powerful forces that have created and continue to shape this dramatic landscape of tall peaks and rugged valleys.

 

Rivers of Life

At the foot of a glacier, a small trickle of meltwater emerges and flows over and around ancient rock. As the trickle turns to stream and stream to raging river, powerful water shapes this land, and contributes to the health and vitality of the living community.

Salmon returning from the sea deposit their eggs in mountain streams, bringing a gift of life. And in their death comes life as well. Their decomposing bodies become food for other animals and enrichment for streamside soil and plants.

Everything that lives here, from the smallest vole to the majestic Dall sheep, is connected to each other and to these flowing waters.

Map of watersheds in Wrangell-St. Elias

 
The Nizina River

Springing From Glaciers!

Braided Rivers
Glacial streams begin in the high mountains where they stay frozen all winter, but melt when days lengthen and become warmer. As water flow and momentum increase, a trickling stream can become a powerful river, carrying sand, rocks, and even boulders as it flows over and through rocky glacial debris. These rivers, carrying large sediment loads, often form a tangled network of bars, channels, and islands. They are called braided rivers. Many of the rivers within the park show this braided characteristic. The rivers' cold temperatures, hiddend depths, and huge sediment loads are potentially dangerous to hikers trying to cross them.

 

Did You Know?

Red Squirrel

Scientists believe that our chattering little forest friend, the red squirrel, is the first mammal proven to have the ability to adapt to our warming climate in just a few generations. Females have been able to shorten their gestation period , normally 36-40 days, by as much as 18 days.