Teklanika River: Original Photograph by Ansel Adams

Story Behind The Image

Ansel Adams made this image of “Teklanika River” in the summer of 1947, when he and his son Michael set out on a Guggenheim Fellowship to document the pristine wilderness of Alaska. At the time Ansel was a consultant to the National Park Service and in that official capacity, had access to areas not usually available to the public. Ansel’s son Michael recalls the trip:

“We drove to Seattle, took a steamship up the Inside Passage to Juneau, stopping at a number of towns, villages, and working fish canneries. From Juneau we flew to Anchorage and took the train to Mount McKinley.”

Teklanika River

“Teklanika River,” 1947 Original Photograph by Ansel Adams
Printed and Signed by the Artist in 1963
Image Size 9 ¼ x 11 ½” and in Excellent Condition

At Mount McKinley, the National Park Service gave Ansel and Michael a pickup truck to travel to Wonder Lake, a 90 mile trip on a dirt road. The two set out on a breathtaking journey through an untouched, vast landscape with views of wonderful migrating herds of animals.

They came to the bridge over the Teklanika River, and there Ansel captured this brilliant, glistening image. On both sides of the river, herds of wildlife gathered. Says Michael, “We were lucky the sun was shining here, as most of the time there were clouds and drizzle.”

The two continued their journey to Wonder Lake, where they weathered high winds, persistent storms, and ferocious mosquitos. Luckily, there were sublime moments on the trip when the storms cleared and the sky opened up just enough to allow Ansel to capture the sunlit beauty of Teklanika River, along with one of the defining images of Alaskan Wilderness: Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake.

Explore more of Ansel Adams’ original photographs of Alaska.