National Park Week Events Kick Off Busy Centennial Season

Date: April 12, 2016
Contact: John Quinley, 907-644-3512

April ushers in the busiest part of the year for Alaska's national parks, and with this year's celebration of the Centennial of the National Park Service more activities than usual are on the calendar. April 16-24 is National Park Week, a nationwide jump start to the summer season. Park events in Alaska include:

  • Free admission all week to Denali NP and all other parks in America. The Denali park road is open to Mile 30.
  • On Saturday, April 16, between noon and 4 p.m., REI Fairbanks and the National Park Service will host Kids to Parks Day. Do you have a fourth grader? We will be issuing the Every Kid in a Park pass, available to 4th graders for free entrance to any national parks! There will also be presentations at the top of the hour about recreational opportunities in parks near Fairbanks.
  • On April 17 and April 23, Denali NP will host bike rides celebrating the 100th birthday of the National Park Service You can join a ranger-led bike ride from the Teklanika Rest Stop on Sunday, April 17, at 11 a.m. or Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m. Both rides start from the Teklanika Rest Stop at Mile 29 on the park road. The ride will go from the rest stop to the beginning of Igloo Canyon (10 miles round-trip). For a more moderate ride there will be a turnaround option in Igloo Forest just past the Teklanika Bridge (3 miles round-trip).
  • In Seward, Kenai Fjords NP will celebrate Earth Day, April 22, with a concert at Seward Elementary School at 1 p.m. Students will perform songs about local wildlife, and a narrator will describe the Centennial of the National Park Service.
  • In Fairbanks, on April 20, at 6 p.m., REI will host a Find Your Park lecture describing trip planning basics for visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park.

On the heels of National Park Week, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park will celebrate the opening of the historic Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum on Saturday, April 30. Tours begin at 1 p.m. and will continue through 9 p.m. A dedication ceremony begins at 4 p.m., and will feature Diane Kaplan, president and chief executive officer of the Rasmuson Foundation; Bert Frost, regional director of the National Park Service for Alaska; and Mike Tranel, superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush NHP.

The "Jeff. Smiths Parlor" was donated to the park in 2008 by the Rasmuson Foundation as part of the Rapuzzi Collection, an array of 30,000 gold rush era objects and five buildings. The building became famous in 1898 as the base of operations for notorious swindler Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and his gang. In 1935, Martin Itjen converted the building into the "Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum," a homespun tourist attraction featuring animatronic mannequins and a wildlife diorama centered on two moose locked in combat. Skagway residents George and Edna Rapuzzi operated the tourist attraction in the mid-1960s and it was available in varying degrees to the public until George's death in 1986.

The grand opening follows an eight-year restoration with original artifacts on display. The Jeff Smiths Parlor is a noteworthy addition to the park as it represents not only gold rush history but also the development of early Alaskan tourism. A full schedule of opening day events and a photo tour of the building's newly restored interior are available online.

Additional information on Alaska's national parks is available online.

Last updated: May 8, 2017