GAME IN MOUNT McKINLEY REGION (Historic Information)
To the sportsman who is seeking large game the slopes of the Alaska Range furnish an attractive field. Nowhere else in Alaska are the four largest game animals—the bear, the sheep, the moose, and the caribou—found in such numbers and in such close proximity as in this region. The very reason of this abundance lies in the inaccessibility of the field, which must deter most sportsmen.
It cannot be reached without the organization of an expedition prepared for a campaign of at least two or three months which makes it beyond the purse and time of the average hunter.
There are two possible routes of approach to the Alaska Range. One is from Seward and one from Anchorage; both by U. S. Government R. R.
The convenient route to the Alaska Range is via the U. S. Government R. R. from Seward or Anchorage. Parties can leave the train at any one of a number of stations and approach the range at different angles.
Brown bear can probably be found in a few days' trip from the coast, and as the journey is continued toward one of the passes at the hea'd of the Skwentna drainage, moose will be met. Sheep will be found in the high range, beyond which lies the caribou country, which, under the most favorable conditions, requires at least a month's journey from Beluga.
The second route of approach is from some point on the Tanana River, which can be reached by steamer either from the mouth of the Yukon by the middle of July, or by way of the White Pass Railway and steamer down the Yukon by about June 20 to July 1.
Landing can best be made at Nenana. The mountains can be reached in a few hours' travel south on the U. S. Government R. R.
Another route would be up the Kantishna River to Roosevelt, thence by U. S. Government R. R. to the foothills. This would require the chartering of a special boat, and hence would be far more expensive. If the route up the Tanana be chosen, pack horses might be procured at Fairbanks, but this is by no means certain.
A hunting trip could be made into the Susitna region by taking a steamer up Susitna River to the limit of navigation, and then proceeding with small boats up the watercourses or, better still, overland with horses.
The expense and duration of the trip are likely to be comparable with those into the Alaska Range described above. Matanuska Valley is now traversed by U. S. Government R. R., placing the hunter immediately in region of game animals and fish. A few weeks' trip in this valley would probably suffice for some good sheep and bear hunting as well as excellent trout fishing.
The northern part of Kenai Peninsula is, to the non-resident hunters, one of the most accessible of the big-game regions of Alaska. Here a licensed guide is required, who can be hired at Seward. Hunting camps for sheep, moose, and bear can be pitched within striking distance of the U. S. Government R. R. and thus communication can be kept up with mail and telegraph.
Anchorage furnishes a good and convenient outfitting point for the big-game hunter going north of Kenai Peninsula, such as the Matanuska country or Alaska Range and for those who are; going via U. S. Government R. R. to McKinley National Park.
In the mountains there are sheep, caribou, glacier bear, and others of the grizzlies, which attain an enormous size; also ptarmigan of the grouse family. On the plateau and near foothills there are larger bands of caribou, glacier, grizzly and black bears, ptarmigan, and occasionally a covey of prairie chickens, known as pintail grouse. Proceeding from the mountains and plateau-land, sparsely timbered country, covered here and there with black spruce, is reached and in this region are moose, black bear, occasionally a grizzly, pintail and blue grouse of the small variety, and known, in that country, as the fool-hen. In the river bottoms are partridges, locally called willow grouse because of feeding on the willow buds.
Generally distributed over this whole region are beaver, otter, mink, and muskrat; black, silver, cross and red foxes; lynx, wolverine, marten and ermine.
Fishing. All clear water streams contain grayling and trout of different varieties in large numbers. In Wonder Lake in the Kantishna country trout have been caught weighing twenty-five pounds.
In Lake Minchumina, shovelnose pike are very numerous, the writer having seen 56 caught with one trolling hook in four hours' time, their weight ranging from 10 to 30 pounds each. White fish of the very finest are taken here with nets.
This particular lake is the home of the moose and one of the greatest water fowl regions of the North. In this locality the migrating birds nest in the thousands of lakes and have their young undisturbed by man. Beginning about the 20th of April, the migrating birds arrive in such numbers that the noise made by their calling is almost deafening.
Tundra in Spring Bloom Near NomeDucks of all varieties, geese, crane, swan, snipe, and shore birds are to be had here. In August the young ducks come out into the lake.
Large sections are covered thickly by them and they hardly rise when a boat passes through the mass. The lake looks as though it were covered with a blanket of water fowl. The same conditions exist in Lake Minto region.
In the country surrounding Lake Minchumina the beaver is at home. In the mountains and the near foothills the traveler will find good footing, and can always select routes that will carry him along the low divides, where, he will find broken shale and hard footing, and the moss if any will be white, caribou moss, which does not bother a person as do the heavier mosses found in the low, flat country.
Climbing can be made with gradual grades without tiring. In the winter in the mountains snow shoes are seldom used. The winds that blow at times drive the snow off the ridges and sides into the canyons and other depressions, where with the cold it becomes hard enough to walk on. It is thus that snow slides are formed.
A peculiar thing is that on a cold day on leaving camp and climbing up on the mountains, the higher the altitude, the warmer it really is. The writer has in mind a time when reaching the ridges, on a sheep hunt, the "parkay" and sweater had to be taken off and packed, to avoid perspiring and, on coming down, put on again.
On the plateau which extends along the foot of the Alaska Range are "nigger heads" lying on a solid foundation of gravel. They are grass clumps which attain as high as three feet, never seeming to rot but increasing in size each year. They grow very close to each other and are a temptation to the stranger to step from one to another; but he soon experiences their shaky uncertainty and picks his way between them. This with the heavy moss (which is wet and of a deep growth) causes great fatigue. Therefore avoid the lower levels away from the mountains, at least during the summer. Select the sections known to have the minimum of niggerheads.
Kantishna City, located in the heart of the Kantishna mining district, where the traveler can see the gold being taken from the ground in various ways, is but a few miles away, and he who avails himself of the accommodations to be had at the road-house there can make trips of two and three days' duration,by the use of a pack animal or two, and visit all of the country around, the traveling being very good from this point.
To arrive at Kantishna in the summer a person should make arrangements with some of the numerous gas boats going to 'Roosevelt on the Kantishna River from Nenana.
From there it is only 30 miles over a road that the Government has constructed to Kantishna City. In this section a person will find everything that can be had in the interior in the line of game, fishing, and scenery.
People wishing to go to Lake Minchumina in the summer can charter gas boats and, taking a canoe with them, are able to leave Nenana and go into the lake in about four days at the most.