DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska (AP) — About half the main road through Denali National Park and Preserve will be remain closed next year as officials work to address a long-running landslide issue, the park announced Thursday.
In August, the road west of mile 43 was closed to nonessential vehicles, pedestrians and bikes because of conditions caused by a landslide in the Polychrome Pass area. The roadbed has slumped about 30 feet since Sept. 6, “already exceeding the total movement seen from October 2020 to March of 2021,” according to a statement from the park.
Given the acceleration trend, the National Park Service “expects landslide movement over this winter will exceed the park’s ability to restore or maintain the road surface to safely allow for bus traffic,” the statement says.
Buses next year will provide access to mile 43 of the 92-mile (148 kilometer) road, the park says. Buses are the main way to travel into the park.
The park, in August, said slides have affected the area since at least the 1960s but used to require maintenance every two to three years. Climate change, however, “has taken what was previously a problem solved by maintenance staff performing road repairs and made a challenge too difficult to overcome with short-term solutions,” the park has said.
Authorities are working to accelerate plans for a permanent bridge over the slide area, which originally was planned for 2023, according to the statement Thursday.
The park “will continue to have access to great wildlife viewing, views of Denali, front-country trails, and backcountry hiking and camping,” the park’s deputy superintendent, Brooke Merrell, said in the statement.
Denali is the largest mountain in North America.