Wrangell St Elias National Park is vast. Perhaps even foreboding. Characterized by remote mountain ranges that can challenge even the most accomplished climbers and trekkers, not to mention sweeping valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife, Wrangell issues a call to anyone who has the spirit of adventure.
To know wrangell is to know the Copper Basin. And exploration of the Basin began in the early 1780s. Russian traders in particular are credited with their efforts to document activity in the region, as their continually searched for new sources of fur. As they traveled along the southern coast of Alaska, the Russians couldn't help but notice the intimidating Copper River. By the early 1800's, the Russians had established one of the first trading posts in the Basin, and Wrangell suddenly found itself on the map.
Russian trade seems to have been firmly entrenched in the region until the mid-1800's. They had established a tenuous friendship with Indian tribes in and around the wrangell area. But not until some 30 years later -- 1885 -- did significant exploration of the Copper Basin and Wrangell in particular take place. The U.S. Army did extensive surveying of the area. Measuring many of the Wrangell peaks including Mount Blackburn, Mount Drum, and Mount Sanford...
This type of research and exploration continued unabated until the late 1800's as the U.S. Army accomplished more and more significant surveying of the Wrangell Mountains and Copper Basin.
Although the idea of government protected lands was bandied about, the concept of Wrangell-st elias national park would have to wait. It was inevitable that gold was discovered in the mountains in 1899. More significant however, was the discovery of chalcocite mineral deposits near the kennicott glacier. This led to the formation of the "Bonanza Mine" in 1900 which for years played out nearly 300 million dollars worth of related mineral ore.
As you can imagine, the discovery of gold and other rich mineral deposits brought with it more western influence in the form of nearly 200 miles of railroad. This brought an influx if industry and was the death knell for the American Indians in the area.
Copper and Silver mining petered out in the late 1930's. This activity underscored by the discovery of more gold discovered in about 1913.
By the 1930's, with no gold or other minerals led to mine, interest in the Copper Basin waned. Tourism was the key. And by 1938, the gears were again in motion to create a national park in Wrangell Ak. However it wasn't until 1978 that the area was declared a National Monument and by 1980 nearly 14 million acres were protected by the United States Government. Wrangell Ak got its heritage back and steady streams of visitors year round are better off for it.
Congress passed the note worthy "Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act" in 1980, and as a result, the Wrangell Mountains became part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest U.S. National Park