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Glacial Rivers & Wildlife Thorofares EarthCache

Hidden : 09/09/2009
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Size: Size:   other (other)

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Geocache Description:

This is the fifth 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.

Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving. Seeing large riverbeds like the one to your south, park visitors often wonder, “Does the water ever completely fill its wide streambed?” Based on experience in the lower 48, this is a logical question to ask: the beds of the rivers that most of us are familiar with are only as wide as the river at flood stage. However, as is often the case here, the processes and features of Denali are surprisingly different from those in lower latitudes and force us to re-approach the natural world with heightened powers of observation.

This river, like most in Denali National Park and Preserve, is a “braided” river. The relatively young mountains and active glaciers in Denali send a heavy load of silt, rocks, and debris down these rivers. Some of that sediment settles and chokes off the river’s course, repeatedly forcing the water to cut a new path and create new channels as it weaves its way downstream. This explains why the beds are so wide despite never being filled to the banks by the rivers they contain.

The wide, rocky places created by the multiples channels of braided rivers are called “river bars.” They provide Denali’s animals a place where travel is relatively smooth, a much easier option than the difficult trudging required to navigate through the heavy vegetation of the taiga and low tundra. The bars are also home to different species of plants than those that grow in other tundra areas, providing Denali’s wildlife access to a different and important habitat.

Look carefully here for caribou or moose ambling across the river bars for easier travel or grizzly bears digging up roots and tubers. You might also see mew gulls, ptarmigan, and snowshoe hares, frequenters of river bars. This habitat and its incredible inhabitants wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the unique, surprising nature of the sub-Arctic’s young, glacial feed rivers and streams.

To Get To This Cache: you will have to drive your car or take the Savage River Shuttle to its turn-around point at the Savage River Bridge.

To Log This Cache: This cache is the highest in elevation of all the Denali Geo-Venture caches. Look for a local landmark that will give you the exact elevation of the river here? Email your answer to Use ‘Denali Geo-Venture - Glacial Rivers’ 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
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.

Additional Hints (No hints available.)