Orange tent in foreground green valley and mountains with snow patches in background. Campsite above Ferguson Creek, Kluane National Park

Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek, Yukon and British Columbia (Alaska, USA)

Dall sheep ram with large curved horns. Dall Sheep in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park
Close-up view of two smiling visitors, male and female, with backpack, river, and mountain in background. Hikers in Kluane National Park

Date of Inscription: 1979 (ext. 14 Dec 1992, 17 Dec 1994)

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee under the following criteria:

Criterion (vii): The joint properties encompass the breadth of active tectonic, volcanic, glacial and fluvial natural processes from the ocean to some of the highest peaks in North America. Coastal and marine environments, snow-capped mountains, calving glaciers, deep river canyons, fjord-like inlets and abundant wildlife abound. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty.

Criterion (viii): These tectonically active joint properties feature continuous mountain building and contain outstanding examples of major ongoing geologic and glacial processes. Over 200 glaciers in the ice-covered central plateau combine to form some of the world’s largest and longest glaciers, several of which stretch to the sea. The site displays a broad range of glacial processes, including world-class depositional features and classic examples of moraines, hanging valleys, and other geomorphological features.

Criterion (ix): The influence of glaciation at a landscape level has led to a similarly broad range of stages in ecological succession related to the dynamic movements of glaciers. Subtly different glacial environments and landforms have been concentrated within the property by the sharp temperature and precipitation variation between the coast and interior basins. There is a rich variety of terrestrial and coastal/marine environments with complex and intricate mosaics of life at various successional stages from 500 m below sea level to 5000 m above.

Criterion (x): Wildlife species common to Alaska and Northwestern Canada are well represented, some in numbers exceeded nowhere else. The marine components support a great variety of fauna including marine mammals and anadromous fish, the spawning of which is a key ecological component linking the sea to the land through the large river systems. Populations of bears, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep and mountain goats that are endangered elsewhere are self regulating here. This is one of the few places remaining in the world where ecological processes are governed by natural stresses and the evolutionary changes in a glacial and ecological continuum.

Description

Behold! An empire of mountains and ice. Here, in a vast international preserve, are most of the tallest peaks in North America and the largest icefields outside the polar caps. Half the land mass is permanently draped in snow and ice - the other half fosters forests and tundra and stable populations of eagles, grizzlies and other species often at risk elsewhere.

Kluane National Park and Reserve in the Yukon and British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (which is managed in co-operation with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations) are the Canadian components of a vast, unbroken ecological unit that covers 97,000 square kilometres and is untouched but for a historic Aboriginal presence. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park, both in Alaska, complete the first bi-national entry on the World Heritage List.

The St. Elias Mountains extend over most of the preserve area, hosting the largest group of great peaks on the continent, including massive 5,959-metre Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada. Moist air blown in from the Pacific Ocean makes for tremendous snows in the area, creating a massive icefield and producing hundreds of glaciers; among them some of the world’s largest and fastest-moving. Three dozen major rivers drain the region. Carrying immense loads of silt and rock, they are continually reshaping the landscape.

Vegetation ranges from coastal and valley forests to alpine tundra, nurturing, among other fauna, the largest concentration of Dall sheep in the world.

 

More Information

Parks Canada:

Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada

United States National Park Service:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Province of British Columbia

Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

World Heritage Centre:

World Heritage - Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek