Go Green in Alaska: Ecotours in the 49th State

With less than one percent of the state's 365 million acres belonging to private interests, Alaska is a unique bastion of protected lands. This real-life final frontier has 17 of America's highest peaks, 47 steaming volcanoes, 100,000 glaciers, over 3 million lakes, the largest national park in the United States, and an animal-to-human ratio that will make most travelers feel gloriously outnumbered. Even better, commercial tourism has barely established itself, which translates into endless opportunities for eco-sensitive adventurers to get out and explore a true wilderness.
With Mother Nature in such grand form, the most difficult thing to decide is where to go and what to do. Grizzly enthusiasts flock to Katmai National Park and the Brooks River to watch the ursine wonders feed on spawning salmon; or they paddle over to Kodiak Island where the bears are under less intense human observation. Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks are home to a rich array of arctic animals, including bears, wolves, Dall sheep, moose, humpback whales, harbor seals, and sea otters.
Alaska's serene inlets, rushing rivers, and steep glaciers framing narrow fjords make for a paddler's paradise. Kenai Fjords National Park, Prince William Sound, and Glacier Bay National Park are best for sea kayaking, canoeing, and boat touring, particularly when breaching whales and massive icebergs are on show. Whitewater enthusiasts, meanwhile, will find that the Class II-IV rapids on the Copper and Nenana Rivers rival any in the Lower 48.
But to go truly eco in Alaska, head into the open backcountry of Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks. These two massive parks have only three roads between them, leaving millions of acres teeming with wildlife and rich with unvarnished beauty. Remote camping is an option almost anywhere, but if you want to mix in a little five-star luxury with your eco adventure, remote wilderness lodges in both parks—and scattered throughout the state—can serve as ideal base camps. Spend the day submerged in Alaska's vast expanse, then return to your lodge to rest by a roaring fire and dine on fresh sushi, while gazing out at the snow-capped landscape. Sometimes, going green means seeing white.

Published: 1 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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