Kluane National Park
Of Kluane National Park’s 8,500 square miles (14,760 km2), 5,700 (9,900 km2) are encased up to a half-mile deep in the largest subpolar ice field outside Greenland, surrounded by more than 2,000 glaciers. The longest of these have an active flow over 45 miles (65 km). Sometimes a surge shatters one into a giant ice pincushion, or forms a dam that breaks up later in a spectacular wall of water. One historic dam-break gushed for two days at a rate comparable to that of the Amazon River.
Varied habitats in the rest of the park—brooding spruce forests, braided river valleys, mountain- circled lakes, and alpine meadows—harbor a hundred or so black bears and twice that many grizzlies. Packs of timber wolves stalk huge moose—a larger-than-normal subspecies— that nibble on young willow growth. And there are lynx, coyotes, red foxes, a few cougars, small but ferocious wolverines, and thousands of small rodent prey species.
White Dall sheep and mountain goats leap over crags where bald and golden eagles soar. There are 106 bird species, from falcons to tiny water pipits, rosy finches, and warblers, though only a few, like spruce grouse and willow ptarmigans, stay year-round (temperatures drop from summer highs of 91°F/33°C to –58°F/–50°C in midwinter).
Life adapts. Multihued alpine flowers hug the earth, minimizing exposure. Pollinating butterflies are dark, absorbing maximum solar energy. Small pikas foraging among rocks are stocky with short ears and limbs, lessening heat loss. During cyclical snowshoe hare declines, predators, both animal and bird, may prey on one another to avoid starvation.
Kluane (pronounced Kloo-wahn-ee), Tuchone word for “lake with many fish,” has 150 miles (240 km) of backcountry trails and old mining roads. There are visitor centers in Sheep Mountain and Haines City with campgrounds 35 miles (56 km) south of Haines Junction.