As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial on Aug. 25, the time couldn't be better for a short question-and-answer package on Alaska's national parks. The 15 parks, preserves, monuments and national historical parks managed by the National Park Service cover about 54 million acres of Alaska land (more than 60 percent of the land managed by the National Park Service nationwide), stretching from one end of the state to the other. You may have visited several — even though Alaska is home to some of the least accessible parks in the system. Here's a short quiz.
Which national park in Alaska attracts the most visitors? Which lures the fewest? Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway attracted some 920,000 visitors in 2015 (most of them off cruise ships), while remote Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula near Port Heiden welcomed only 153 (and that was up 14 percent from the previous year).
Which Alaska National Park is the largest? Wrangell-St. Elias is America's largest national park at 13,000 square miles, or 13.2 million acres; bonus points if you knew that Alaska national parks were also second, third and fourth largest on the list — with Gates of the Arctic at 11,700 square miles; Denali at 7,400 square miles; and Katmai at 5,700 square miles. The largest National Park in the Lower 48 is Death Valley, with its 5,300 square miles spread over California and Nevada.
Which Alaska National Park is the smallest? Sitka National Historic Park at 116 acres. It would take nearly 114,000 Sitka parks to equal Wrangell-St. Elias in size. Located on the outer shore of Baranof Island, Sitka National Historic Park preserves historically and culturally significant sites and artifacts related to the 1804 Battle of Sitka between Tlingit and Russian forces. Particularly stirring are the totem poles on display. The Russian Bishop's House at Sitka National Historical Park is the oldest intact piece of Russian American colonial architecture.
Which national park or monument was Alaska's first? Bingo, it's Sitka National Historical Park again, established as a national monument in 1910 — 49 years before Alaska became a state.
Which national parks contain two of the four major ice fields left in the country? Kenai Fjords National Park, with the 300-square mile Harding Ice Field. A picturesque trail beginning at Exit Glacier runs beside the ice field. And Glacier Bay National Park, with the Brady Ice Field.
What Alaska National Park is on the brink of a big birthday? Denali National Park turns 100 on Feb. 26 next year, but age hasn't reduced its popularity. Roughly 560,000 visitors showed up last year, a record.
True or false, hunting is allowed in some National Park Service units? True. More than 20 million acres of national preserves in Alaska are open to sport hunting. Federal subsistence hunting also takes place in most, but not all, national parks in Alaska.
If Alaska lands were eliminated from the National Park system how much land would be lost? About 54 million acres, or more than 60 percent of the land in the federal system.
Which Alaska national park did President Obama visit last summer? Kenai Fjords. He walked the trail to Exit Glacier, visited with park staff, and snacked on salmon with reality TV star Bear Grylls in late August as a guest on his "Running Wild" program.
Who came up with the name Gates of the Arctic? Robert Marshall, a forester from New York, while visiting the Central Brooks Range in the summer of 1929. The Gates are two mountains — "a precipitous pair," Marshall said — that stand sentinel-like over the North Fork of the Koyukuk River. He named them Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crags. Marshall co-founded The Wilderness Society in 1935.
Which national park in Alaska is home to the largest active dune field in arctic North America? Kobuk Valley National Park. The dunes reach a height of more than 100 feet, and scientists believe the dune field is more than 33,000 years old (determined by samples of peat bog below the sand).
Do Alaska's national parks have international sister parks? Yes. Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve's sister park is Lake Hanka National Natural Preserve in Russia. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve's sister park is Francisco Coloane Marine and Coastal Protected Area in Chile. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park's sister is right over the Canadian boundary: Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site, in the Yukon Territory. This sisterhood became the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park in 1998. The world's first international peace park, Waterton-Glacier (Alberta-Montana), was formed in 1932 to help promote world peace. Sister parks are established as non-binding agreements of international cooperation.
You may not be able to see Russia from an Alaska national park, but you can step into Canada from four National Park Service areas in Alaska. Which ones? Glacier Bay National Park, Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Name a Jesuit priest commonly associated with two National Park Service areas in Southwest Alaska? Father Bernard Hubbard, who created films and widely lectured about Alaska. In 1929, he documented his trip the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, now in Katmai National Park. And in 1930-32, he led expeditions to Mount Aniakchak, now part of Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve.
What national park hosted an Army recreation camp during World War II? Denali (then Mount McKinley National Park).