Late Quaternary Environments, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

  • Scott A. Elias
  • Susan K. Short
  • Christopher F. Waythomas
Keywords: Late Quaternary environments, Denali National Park, Alaska, pollen, insect fossils


Late Quaternary pollen, plant macrofossils, and insect fossils were studied from sites along three rivers in the foothills north of the Alaska Range in Denali National Park and Preserve. The aim was to carry out a reconnaissance of late Quaternary organic sediments in the region, emphasizing the mid-Wisconsin, or Boutellier interstadial interval. Samples of probable early-to mid-Boutellier age (ca. 60 000 to 40 000 B.P.) from Unit 2 at the Toklat High Bluffs site indicate open boreal woodland with dense alder shrub vegetation. Organic Unit 1 at the Foraker River Slump site indicates open taiga with shrubs of probable Boutellier age. Fossil evidence from the youngest horizon in this unit indicates graminoid tundra environments, marking the transition from interstadial to late Wisconsin glacial environments. Early Holocene samples from the Foraker exposures suggest birch shrub tundra; coniferous forest apparently became established only after 6500 B.P. Local variations in forest composition at the Foraker and Sushana sites were probably the result of disturbances, such as fire.