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Home National & State Parks Other NPs New Visitor Center Opens at Denali National Park

Alaska

New Visitor Center Opens at Denali National Park

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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's new political status isn't the only news coming from the 49th state these days; Danali National Park has a new $9 million visitor center, but if you want to explore it you'll have to wait for next spring.
  
After three years of planning and design by a team of architects, engineers, and Denali National Park staff, and three more years of construction, the new Eielson Visitor Center opened to the public on June 8, 2008. The center was dedicated on Aug. 12, and on hand to officially inaugurate was Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife Lyle Laverty, among other dignitaries.
 
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Because of Alaska's formidable fall-through-spring weather, the center basically is only for summer use and is open May 15 to about mid-September between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Danali Visitor Center isn't a place you just pop over to see, either.

Visitors spend four hours each way traveling to and from the Eielson Visitor Center by bus and get a firsthand experience of Denali's wilderness along the way.

Located on the Denali Park Road, 66 miles from Denali National Park and Preserve's entrance and in the heart of the park's six million acres of protected wilderness, the Eielson Visitor Center commands a panoramic view of the Alaska Range, which features Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak at 20,320 feet..

The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. The park also encompass a complete sub-arctic eco-system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose.

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The park was established as Mount McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976.

Today the park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. It continues to provide a laboratory for research in the natural sciences.

Named after Carl Ben Eielson, a pioneer Alaskan aviator, the new visitor center features large indoor and outdoor viewing areas, an indoor dining area, and space for indoor ranger presentations.

With over 7,400 square feet of space, the center offers stunning exhibits that include an interactive topographical model of Mount McKinley, an art exhibit featuring works done by participants in Denali's Artist-In-Residence program, and an exquisite, hand-crafted piece of fabric art by local Denali artist Ree Nancarrow.

The total cost of the building and its exhibits was $9.2 million.

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Throughout the period of design and construction, park managers made sustainability a primary goal and strove for the highest standards under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

Design elements of the Eielson Visitor Center contributing to a Platinum LEED rating include a low-profile, earth-bermed building that blends into the landscape; transplanting tundra mats salvaged during construction to camouflage the roof deck; using renewable energy sources such as solar panels, hydroelectric power, and natural light; selecting energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and plumbing systems; recycling portions of the original visitor center for the building; and carefully selecting recycled and locally produced materials.

So if Alaska is part of your summer vacation plans next near, make time to see Denali National Park and the new Eielson Visitor Center. Ree Nancarrow's gorgeous hand-crafted fabric art centerpiece inside the main building is just about worth the visit all by itself.


 
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