Reading the North

Denali National Park: The Complete Visitors Guide

Bill Sherwonit (The Mountaineers Books, $19.95)

The blurb: Part history, part field guide and part recreation tool, this is an up-to-date and comprehensive guidebook to one of the nation's most beloved national parks.

Excerpt: "The Sled Dog Kennels have been an integral part of the Denali experience since the early 1920s, when Superintendent Harry Karstens and his rangers first mushed into the 1.4-million-acre wilderness on poaching patrols. Without their dog teams, Karstens and his rangers would have had no way to reach the park's most remote areas. From late fall through early spring, the dogs helped protect Denali's wildlife from illegal hunting.

"Nowadays, poaching isn't the problem it once was. And throughout much of the north, snowmobiles have replaced dogs as the primary means of winter travel. But sled dogs, not machines, continue to be used on winter patrols into the heart of Denali's wilderness, where mechanized vehicles are not allowed. On modern patrols, rangers maintain and stock Denali's network of historic cabins, assist wildlife researchers, keep a winter route open from headquarters to Wonder Lake, and stay in touch with visitors and park neighbors.

Billion-Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock

Kevin M. Bailey (The University of Chicago Press, $25)

The blurb: Earlier this year, McDonald's launched an advertising campaign to promote the wild-caught Alaska pollock found in its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and newly released Fish McBites. And while this was good news for the pollock fishing industry -- which boasts an annual value of more than $1 billion -- it may be bad news for the pollock. In recent years, the pollock population has declined by more than half, and some scientists are predicting the fishery's eventual collapse.

Excerpt: "Of the pollock stocks that experienced marked declines, if not collapses, including the western Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Donut Hole, and Bogoslof stocks, all experienced increasing harvest levels for a period of years when the stocks were at high levels.

"Like the number of fishing boats, predator populations also increased in response to high prey levels. When the stocks began to decline, the high commercial harvest levels continued because management didn't see the declines for a number of years. Likewise, the predators can't reduce their own metabolic requirements, and the declining numbers of pollock as prey were exposed to very high levels of natural mortality... Furthermore, the fishery targets the larger animals in the population and the predator community eats the smaller animals. The result is a double whammy and collapse is hard to avoid."

Images of America: Eagle River

Zane Treesh (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)

The Blurb: Eagle River's history began in 1898, when the valley was explored by W.C. Mendenhall of the U.S. Geological Survey. Since that first journey, a vibrant community has grown just 10 miles from Anchorage, still retaining its small-town characteristics.

Excerpt: "The 1970s began with the formation of Chugach State Park. At the time, it was the largest state park in the nation and, to some extent, put a limit on how much Eagle River development could expand. In 1971, Lee Jordan established the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, a weekly newspaper.

"Three years later, in 1974, some of the population was unhappy being part of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough and formed a new borough. Lee Jordan was elected as the first mayor of the Chugiak-Eagle River Borough. He held the office for only a few months before the courts ruled the area could not separate from the Greater Anchorage Area Borough. The next year, the City of Anchorage and the Greater Anchorage Area Borough were combined to form the Municipality of Anchorage, and Eagle River permanently became part of the municipality.