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This is the first of 6 earthcaches that highlight the landscape of Denali National Park and Preserve.
Welcome to Denali Geo-Ventures, a set of virtual earthcaches that highlight the amazing landscape that is Denali National Park and Preserve. These activities are offered through the Murie Science and Learning Center, a consortium of partners working with the National Park Service to support research and education efforts in Alaska’s northern parks. This set of earthcaches was created by Alaska Geographic, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people with our public lands.
These Denali Geo-Ventures take you behind the scenery; to investigating why the land at Denali’s entrance is so spectacular, and how it came to be. To ensure you have a positive experience and help us protect the park, please read through all of the ‘Before You Go’ information at the bottom of this page.
Often, we view the world around us as static. Although we realize that some things change—the seasons, the number of animals we see, the amount of rain that falls from one year to the next—we seldom if ever consider how drastically different the world around us may have been thousands, millions, or even billions of years ago.
For instance, how do you think the ground beneath your feet got there? Has it always been there just as it is now, or does it have its own unique story of creation and change?
Although it may be hard to believe, the ground you have been walking on is over one billion years old! It began as the floor of a prehistoric shallow sea that lapped the shores of the ancient North American tectonic plate. Underwater volcanoes oozed, sands washing away from coastal mountains accumulated, and marine organisms left their shells behind when they died, forming many layers of mud and sediment laid down over hundreds of thousands of years. Soon the pressure increased as the layers built up and sediments were forced underground deep within the earth. Subjected to extreme loads of pressure and tremendously high temperatures, what has emerged at the surface is metamorphic rock that has withstood the test of time. The rock types found here are schist, quartzite, phyllites, and marble, but geologists today call this whole unit of metamorphic rocks the “Yukon-Tanana Crystalline Sequence,” formerly known as the “Birch Creek Schist.” In fact, this is the oldest rock in Denali National Park and Preserve, older than any of the mountains and valleys—you might say it’s the “basement rock” of Denali.
In Denali, even the ground beneath your feet has a story to tell. As you continue to enjoy other Denali Geo-Ventures and the more recent changes in the park’s history they explore, don’t forget the rich history of rock lying just below the surface.
To Get To This Cache: Hike the MSLC Trail. You can access this trail, either from the Horse Lake Trail head to the Taiga Trail or from the Murie Science and Learning Center. As you near the site look low near the ground on the southeast (uphill) side of the trail for a small cut bank and a section of exposed rock (approximately 1 foot high and 3 feet long). Here this “basement rock” is exposed for you to see – rock that is 500 million years old! Remember, these rocks tell a story for all to see so please do not take any souvenirs.
To Log this cache: Compasses are important tools of geologists to determine the orientation of rockbeds and fault lines. Use your compass (or compass feature on your GPS) to determine which direction the water is flowing (or would be flowing if it had water) in the small creek bed downhill from this cache. Email the cardinal direction (N, S, E, or W) of this creek to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to receive credit for this cache. Use ‘Denali Geo-Venture -Oldest Rock’ in the subject line of your email.
Before You Go Information!!!
1. All of the Denali Geo-Venture sites are located on established park trails or roads and are within the first 15 miles of the park road. There is no need to go off these durable surfaces to find your site. Help us protect the park by avoiding the trampling of the fragile subarctic plants. Also, please abide by the Leave No Trace ethics for your entire stay in Denali.
2. Denali Geo-Ventures do not involve any physical caches to be found. You will be required to look for a clue at each cache and email your answer to email@example.com.
3. The completion of these Denali Geo-Ventures is easiest in the summer when the Park Road is open beyond Park Headquarters. In the winter months access to some of the caches can be done on a day hike, yet may require travel through snow and challenging conditions. For information about visiting Denali and weather conditions call the Denali Visitor Information line at (907) 683-9532.
4. Summer visitors with or without personal vehicles can participate in the Denali Geo-Ventures. If visiting without your own vehicle, you may need to make use of the free Savage River Shuttle bus to reach some of the Denali Geo-Venture sites. Consult a Shuttle Bus Schedule for hours of operation.
5. As with all visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve, you are required to pay the park entrance fee at the Denali Visitor Center or the Wilderness Access Center. Entrance fees are $10 per individual or $20 per vehicle. Several park passes are available and may be used in lieu of the park entrance fee.
6. For the east-end Park Visitor Center hours of operation visit this page of the Denali National Park and Preserve website.
7. Denali is a wilderness that is home to many species of wildlife, large and small. To ensure your safety while in this wilderness please remember to Keep Wildlife Wild and review our Bear and Wildlife Safety information.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum