Who Were Wrangell and St. Elias?

Where Did The Park Get Its Name?
The park is named after the Wrangell and St. Elias Mountain ranges. These mountains form the rugged backbone of the park.

The Wrangell Mountains were named after Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel (1796-1870), who was a Russian Naval officer, arctic explorer, and government administrator. He was a governor of the Russian colonies in Alaska (1829-35), director of the Russian American company (1840-49), and Minister of the Navy (1855-57). He was highly critical of the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Several islands are named for him.

Lt. Henry T. Allen was the one to actually name many of the Wrangell Mountains in his exploration of the Copper River Basin in 1885. He also named some of the peaks within the range, such as Sanford, Drum, and Blackburn, as well as other natural features in the area.

Mount Wrangell
The large sloping profile of Mount Wrangell can be seen throughout the Copper River Basin.
Mount St. Elias
Mount St. Elias (18,008') is the second highest peak in the United States.

J. Parker

The St. Elias Mountains were named by explorer Vitus Bering (1681-1741). Bering was a Danish explorer in Russian employ that was selected in 1725 by Peter I to explore far NE Siberia. In 1728 Bering oversaw the exploration and mapping of the far reaches of Siberia and headed an expedition across the sea (which later was to bear his name) to Alaska. In 1741 he commanded the St. Peter while Aleksey Ilich Chirikov (d. 1748) commanded the St. Paul. They set out, rounded Kamchatka and then sailed west, where the vessels were separated. Bering sighted massive coastal mountains on July 16. The lofty summit of Mount St. Elias was the first piece of Alaska mainland to catch Vitus Bering’s eye. That day was the feast day of the Saint Elias. The area where they made landfall was named for Elias. Eventually the mountain too came to be called Mount St. Elias.

Last updated: December 29, 2020

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway

Copper Center, AK 99573


907 822-5234

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