These parks comprise an impressive complex of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the border between Canada (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and the United States (Alaska). The spectacular natural landscapes are home to many grizzly bears, caribou and Dall's sheep. The site contains the largest non-polar icefield in the world.
Statement of Significance
The Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek national parks and protected areas along the boundary of Canada and the United States of America are the largest non-polar icefield in the world and contain examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers. Characterized by high mountains, icefields and glaciers, the property transitions from northern interior to coastal biogeoclimatic zones, resulting in high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages. The Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys are pivotal because they allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration. The parks demonstrate some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
A unique area with high mountain peaks, foothills, glacial systems, lakes, streams, valleys and coastal landscapes. The Wrangell-St Elias region represents the most extensive array of glaciers and ice fields outside the polar region. These features and the high mountains of the Wrangell-St Elias, Chugach and Kluane ranges have resulted in the region becoming known as the 'Mountain Kingdom' of North America. Geologically the mountains are included in the Pacific mountain system and include the 130 km long Bagley ice field, the second-highest peak in the USA (Mount St Elias) and the largest piedmont glacier on the North American continent (Malaspina Glacier). Extensive lowlands are found only in the centre and along north-western fringes of the region. Elsewhere lowlands are sandwiched between mountains and sea or occur as narrow valleys and plateaux grading into upland and serrated peaks. Principal drainages include the Copper, Chitina, White, Alsek and Donjek rivers and tributaries. The Malaspina foreland coastal area comprises mainly long, straight piedmont glacial beaches cut through by numerous often sizeable glacial-melt drainage-ways.
The wide ranges of climatic zones and elevations in the region have resulted in a great variety of ecosystems representing three major biomes or broad vegetational subdivisions: the coastal coniferous biome; the northern coniferous biome; and the alpine tundra biome. The coastal coniferous biome includes coastal spruce-hemlock forests, tall shrub thickets and bogs and marshes.
The northern coniferous biome includes closed tall spruce and deciduous forests, open, low mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, tall shrub thickets and low shrub thickets.
The alpine tundra biome includes moist sedge and grass alpine tundra and dry alpine tundra: moist sedge and grass alpine tundra at 900-1,500 m on gradual slopes, meadow-like tundra composed of sedges and grasses interspersed with low shrubs such as blueberry and Labrador tea; and dry alpine tundra, on steeper mountain slopes and exposed ridges from 900 m to the elevation of perpetual ice and snow comprising low, matted alpine plants dominated by mountain avens.
There is a great variety of fauna reflecting the habitat diversity. Carnivores include coyote, grey wolf, red fox, short-tailed weasel, mink, wolverine, river otter, lynx and the more easily visible brown bear and black bear. A rare bluish colour phase of the black bear, known locally as the glacier bear, is centred in the vicinity of Yakutat. Other mammals include pica and snowshoe hare, arctic ground squirrel, beaver Castor, muskrat and porcupine. Rodents include the hoary marmot. Moose and caribou range in lower elevations and mountain goat and Dally sheep occupy high mountainous areas. Bison were introduced in 1950 and again in 1962. Black-tailed deer may occur along coastal fringes.
The avifauna includes spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, willow ptarmigan, rock ptarmigan, white-tailed ptarmigan, trumpeter swan and many song birds.
All five species of Alaskan Pacific salmon including red salmon, chum, silver salmon, pink salmon and king salmon spawn in park or preserve waters. Freshwater fish species include Dolly Virden, lake trout, steelhead, cutthroat trout, arctic grayling, turbot, round whitefish and humpback whitefish. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Established September 1993, under the provisions of the Park Act. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation