Communities in Denali

The Denali region is located in the center of Interior Alaska and includes several communities, scenic landscapes, cultural history, extensive natural resources, recreational opportunities, and industry. Within this region is Denali National Park and Preserve, home to the highest peak in North America (Mt. Denali: 20,320 feet).  Our research engages eight different communities in the Denali region, including Anderson, Cantwell, Healy, Lake Michumina, McKinley Park, Stampede, Nikolai, and Talkeetna.

Immediately surrounding the east side of the park’s boundary is the Denali Borough, incorporated in 1990 and comprised of four recognized communities: Anderson, Healy, McKinley Park/Village, and Cantwell. The borough expands across 12,000 square miles and is home to about 1,900 year-round residents. While all the communities are in close proximity to the major north-south highway, the George Parks Highway, each has unique qualities and characteristics. Anderson is the furthest north of all the borough communities and was incorporated in 1962. The Clear Air Force Station is located about 5 miles from Anderson in Clear and employs a majority of Anderson residents. Located 30 miles south of Anderson is the Healy community. Healy is home to the Usibelli Coal Mine and Golden Valley Electric Association, major employment sectors of the region. This community houses nearly half of the borough residents year-round and many seasonal park employees in the summer. McKinley Park, or McKinley Village, has about 200 year-round residents, many of whom are park employees. Cantwell comprises the southern portion of the Denali Borough and is home to approximately 200 year-round residents. This community has several recreational and subsistence opportunities and Ahtna Inc., a native corporation, is a major landholder. Stampede¬†is a small community that is based along Stampede Road, which originates along the George Parks Highway on the Northern side of the park.

Many indigenous and native people reside in the Denali Region and rely on the landscape for subsistence hunting and gathering. Prominent legislative acts such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 and the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 allow for rural traditional lifestyles to persist in the region. ANSCA protects native claims while ANILCA ensures that subsistence uses, traditional uses, access, and hunting and trapping persist in the new park and preserve. Within the park, ANILCA added 100 million acres to Denali National Park, tripling its size.

To the east of the park boundaries is the village of Nikolai. Expanding 5 square miles, the 89 residents of Nikolai rely on subsistence uses of wild resources. The present location of Nikolai was established in 1990, but had been relocated at least twice before. Nikolai is an Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Village and a majority of the population is Alaska Native or part Native. Existing employment opportunities in Nikolai are mostly seasonal jobs such as firefighting and the Iditarod Dog Sled Race.