Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is mandated to maintain its cultural landscape, defined by the National Park Service as “a geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values.” Nearly all cultural landscapes are dependent on park natural resources. It is these interconnected, dynamic systems of land, air, and water, vegetation, and wildlife that differentiate cultural landscapes from other cultural resources, such as historic structures. Thus, their management requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach, including ecological monitoring.
The park includes the Chilkoot Trail and parts of both the Taiya and Skagway valleys, which provide glacier-free mountain passes connecting to the Canadian interior. The Chilkoot Trail passes through a variety of vegetation zones, including intertidal sand flats, coastal meadow, coastal western hemlock/Sitka spruce forest, subalpine montane zone of mountain hemlock-subalpine fir, and alpine tundra at the highest elevations. With subarctic, alpine, boreal forest, northern coastal forest, and marine systems converging, the park hosts species assemblages found nowhere else in the world. Plant diversity is high (nearly 200 vascular plant species), as plant communities transition from wet coastal rainforest to drier interior conditions.