Denali Road Lottery

The braids of the Toklat River is seen while driving the Denali National Park Road during the Road Lottery Sunday, September 16, 2018. Each September the park hosts a four-day event called the "Road Lottery." During these four days, winners of a lottery drawing are given a chance to purchase a single, day-long permit, allowing them to drive as much of the Denali Park Road as weather allows. In years with early snow, the Park Road might open no farther than Savage River (Mile 15); in milder years, lottery winners are able to enjoy a trip out to the end of the park road (Mile 92). Each year about 11,000 applicants are received, with 1,600 permits are awarded.

Denali National Park and Preserve staff have announced that due to extended periods of heavy rain over the past several weeks the Denali Park Road will be closed to public vehicle access at mile 30, the Teklanika Rest Stop. The closure will begin at 7 a.m. today and includes park transit and tour buses.

Since Aug. 1, according to a post on the Denali National Park and Preserve’s Facebook page, vehicle traffic on the Park Road has been periodically disrupted by rock falls and debris slides beyond mile 30.

“The extended heavy and steady rains have continued to saturate the road surface and surrounding soils, increasing the potential for landslides, debris flows, and associated safety risks,” the post states.

“Weather forecasts indicate that this precipitation pattern is likely to continue into the near future and could prolong the situation.”

G.W. Hitchcock, Denali’s public information officer, said the closure is precautionary rather than being due to any kind of incident.

“We don’t want to wait for an event to happen and then to have to close the road for two weeks,” he said.

Hitchcock said the road was temporarily closed Sunday afternoon for 45 minutes due to a minor landslide of debris across the road. The current closure, he said, is due to a “confluence of the weather and some construction we’re having.” Hitchcock said small construction projects along the Denali Road are common and include the replacement of some culverts.

Park staff will spend the next couple of days assessing the condition of the road and the forecast, before deciding their next move. Hitchcock said it’s possible that the road is reopened by the end of the week, but it all depends on the assessment.

“It may open again Friday or we may move that mile marker further west or east,” he said.

Additional information will be released as decisions affecting the status of the Park Road are made.

For more information, the public can call 683-9532 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459 7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors