Meet the Wrangell-St. Elias Residents: The Last Community to Reside in a National Park

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

There are plenty of qualities that make our country’s national parks so intriguing however, one park, located in a remote region of Alaska, is one of the most unique of all. In fact, it’s the only national park in the U.S. to still house a community of full-time residents. Take a moment to get to know the community members of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the video below.

According to CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor, about 100 full-time residents reside inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Per Glor’s report, the massive national park sits on the edge of Alaska and lies a long eight hours away from Anchorage, one of the state’s most famous cities. That said, its residents remain convinced that the best way to live is far from the chaos of the rest of the States.

The town of 100, named McCarthy, is located at the geographic center of the national park. McCarthy originally thrived a century ago thanks to a major mining operation. However, that area would later become protected by the Alaska Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which forced the closure of the mining operation and further protected 157 million acres of land across 49 U.S. states.

Today, McCarthy is hardly accessible. Those looking to visit need to access the little community via plane, a private bridge, or by entering on foot.

Neil Darish, the town’s largest landowner, said McCarthy is important now in aiding both residents and a growing number of tourists enjoy their wild, remote adventure while still finding safety and comfort in the little thriving community.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Offers a Multitude of Unique Adventuring Opportunities

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, as stated, is massive. Stretching an unimaginable 13.2 million acres, Glor states that the national park covers more ground than Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined. Mike Loso, a geologist with the National Park Service, further insists that the park’s protected lands extend well beyond that 13.2 million acre-boundary, encompassing nine of the United States 16 highest peaks. What makes the park even more dynamic though is that much of its landscape has been shaped by volcanoes and glaciers alike.

Another interesting fact about Wrangell-St. Elias is that it also houses a collection of glaciers, ones that adventurous Outsiders could actually walk upon if they ever chose to visit.

Today, that fact serves two purposes. First, it highlights speaks the rapid disappearance of our planet’s most enduring glaciers and ice shelves. In the video, Loso highlighted just how much of the park’s nearby glaciers have melted over the last several decades since first arriving in 1990.

On the other hand, the park’s walkable glaciers offer tourists and locals alike the opportunity to see some of nature’s increasingly rare wonders up close and personal.