Alaska's six-million-acre Denali National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife (like grizzlies, moose, and caribou), as well as North America's tallest peak (20,320-foot-tall Mount McKinley). But soon, it might also be home to a fleet of hybrid buses.
Just last week, park officials tested a 230-horsepower hybrid bus that would, if approved, drive tourists along the 91-mile road that goes through the park. Visitors are not allowed to drive through Denali, and currently board a variety buses at the park's entrance (shuttle bus, camper bus, interpretive tour bus, etc.) that take them through the park, making stops along the way to look at local wildlife. The bus system is intended to reduce traffic congestion and environmental impact. But hybrid buses, which require 70 percent less fuel and reduce carbon emissions by about 40 percent, would also add another benefit: peace and quiet.
"Can you imagine the thrill of moving slowly and silently past a bear nursing its cub or wolf hunting along the road?" Elwood Lynn, assistant superintendent of operations for Denali told the Associated Press. The current buses are noisy and can be heard throughout the park, scaring away wildlife and creating, overall, an unideal experience.
At $200,000 each, the park doesn't expect to replace its entire fleet just yet. As the current buses break down (some two to 12 are replaced every year), the park hopes to replace them with a hybrid.
Photo: Heather Webber