Denali National Park Geological History

Denali National Park is situated in the center of the curved mountain chain, the Alaskan Range, some 600 miles long. The range is about six miles wide in the McKinley Massif and typically lines northeast to southwest. It is the highest part of the range with several heights of more than 10,000 meters. Alternatively, most of the mountains are between 7000 and 9000 feet large.

At 20,320 ft, the core of these high mountains is Denali, North America’s highest peak. “Denali” in a local Athabascan dialect means “the high one” The peak is now formally named McKinley and travelers from the bottom 48 will recognise it as McKinley. For Alaskans, though, ‘Denali’ is the mountain. Denali is the highest peak in the world in terms of vertical relief or height from base to summit.

Denali consists mostly of a granite dome or pluton. Around 60 million years ago, semi-liquid magma reached the earth’s crust and steadily cooled down the ground for the McKinley plutonium in the Paleocene period. Another pluton formed around 38 million years ago which contributed to the formation of the nearby Denali peaks. When the centuries past, a sea filled the area of today’s park and accumulated a lot of sediment.

Later a tropical forest covered the area, contributing to the formation of coal bearing that today is mined near the park. Geological processes gradually caused the earth to rise and bend, resulting in the metamorphic rock or rock which was converted by the heat or pressure from one rock to another the sequences that still occur in the park.

Just recently, about five million years ago, the Alaska Range started to rise; it is one of the earth’s youngest mountain ranges. Erosion occurred as the rock layers were steadily stripped down on the McKinley granite pluton and the granite itself was exposed to the surface. The same goes for Mt. Foraker, a neighbor of Denali, and other high peaks in Alaska. Granite is a stone that is very strong and erosion-resistant. It is therefore much less compact than other rocks and thus a bit more boomy, which is why Denali has been elevated above every other mountain in North America.

The Denali fault also plays a big part in Denali’s height. The lateral and vertical offset displacement of the Denali fault continues as seen by several earthquakes in the region. The rocks on the south side of the fault were elevated thousands of feet. The steep north side of Denali is 15,000 feet away from its foundation which is attributed to this comparatively recent movement. The wall of the Wickersham Wall. The southern portion of the plate still slides westward, and the northern part eastward. Interestingly enough, Denali began to be elevated 200 kilometers east of its present position. These two sections of the plates slipped 200 miles apart in a few million years.

The tallest and most durable peaks in Denali Park are sculpted from granite stone, such as Denali, Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter. In the Sheldon amphitheater and Great Canyon field around the upper portion of the Ruth Glacer, on the southeastern side of Denali great spires and granite walls soar thousands of feet above the glacier. The granite cathedral Spires on the southwest end of the park in the mountains of Kichatna is North America’s tallest vertical rock beach.

 

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