Denali road lottery canceled for 2021 as ongoing landslide creates hazards

The annual Denali road lottery has been canceled this year, along with its Military Appreciation Day, as the only road through the park was closed near the halfway point this week due to worsening landslide conditions.

Those who were awarded a road lottery permit this year are being refunded, the park service said.

A vast majority of the Denali Park Road is open only to tour or transit buses. But during a four-day event in September, the highly competitive road lottery allows some visitors to drive private vehicles on the road with a daylong permit. Permits are also made available for active-duty military members and their families to drive the road on Military Appreciation Day.

The lottery opening was scheduled for Sept. 17, 18, 20 and 21, said Paul Ollig, a spokesman for the park. Military Appreciation Day was planned for Sept. 18, but permits had not been distributed yet, Ollig said.

A significant portion of the road was closed on Tuesday as conditions near Mile 42 continued to deteriorate. The area has been a point of concern for years, as the continuing Pretty Rocks Landslide has become more pronounced because of climate change.

Visitors can still access the park by transit and tour bus up to Mile 42, and the road is scheduled to be reopened as normal to private vehicles up to Mile 30 at the Teklanika River after bus services end Sept. 16, the park service said in a statement.

In 2018, the landslide was causing the roadway to slump almost half an inch per day, officials said. A little over a week ago, the road was slumping about 7 inches per day and had increased to about 10 to 12 inches per day as park officials made the decision to close it, said Ollig.

Officials planned to maintain the road in passable conditions to allow for essential travel, in order to close down seasonal operations in the western portion of the park.