A Vast Wilderness

January 27, 2019 • #

I picked up John McPhee’s Coming Into the Country this week. You could think of it like a biography of Alaska: the region pre- and post-statehood, its people, the wilderness, wildlife, and its vastness.

Woven throughout are reminders of just how massive the untouched wilderness is in Alaska, and how far you really are from civilization out in the flatlands or up in the Brooks Range.

Early in the book he and his companions are traveling up the Salmon River, in the Kobuk Valley National Park (still not designated in 1977 at the time of writing):

The Kobuk Valley National Monument proposal, which includes nearly two million acres, is, in area, relatively modest among ten other pieces of Alaska that are similarly projected for confirmation by Congress as new parks and monuments. In all, these lands constitute over thirty-two million acres, which is more than all the Yosemites, all the Yellowstones, all the Grand Canyons and Sequoias put together — a total that would more than double the present size of the National Park System. For cartographic perspective, thirty-two million acres slightly exceeds the area of the state of New York.