Formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska was originally established on Feb. 17, 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation establishing the original, 6 million acre park. The name pays homage to former President William McKinley, for which North America’s tallest peak, located within the park’s boundaries was named in 1897 by Alaskan prospector William Dickey.
For the next 83 years, the park retained the name Mount McKinley National Park. On Dec. 2, 1980, the 2.1 million acre Denali Wilderness was established within the park and the two parks were essentially merged. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act named the combined park space the Denali National Park and Preserve. Simultaneously, the Alaska State Board on Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain to simply Denali, meaning “the high one” in the native Athabaskan language spoken by the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Territories of Saskatchewan, most of Alaska and areas of New Mexico.
The U.S. Board of Geographic Names, however, did not recognize the change and continued to denote the official name as Mount McKinley. The naming dilemma lasted until Aug. 30, 2015, when President Barack Obama directed the Secretary of the Interior to officially change the name of the mountain to Denali, using the statutory authority to act on requests when the Board of Geographic Names does not act in a “reasonable” amount of time. Sorry, President McKinley.
Despite being located in Alaska’s interior region, in 2018, Denali National Park and Preserve received almost 600,000 visitors.
Mt. Denali is shown on the front of this Curt Teich Art-Colortone linen style postcard published by the Johnston Company of Seattle, Wash. The printed description on the back reads, “Mount McKinley, Alaska’s highest peak on the North American Continent eternally snow clad. It towers 20,300 feet into the sky.” The card was mailed to Mrs. A.C. Troup, RFD Fayetteville, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The message reads: “Glad to enjoy your joint letter, wish you could have enjoyed the glorious scene with me. It compares with the snowy range above Zermatt. When are we to “lecture”? Love, Carrie Wolfkill, Rose Greenwalt.”