North America's tallest mountain renamed

  • 31/08/2015
Mount McKinley/Denali in Alaska (Reuters)
Mount McKinley/Denali in Alaska (Reuters)

Mount McKinley, the tallest of North America's mountains, is officially being renamed Denali, the White House says.

Sunday's announcement comes on the eve of US President Barack Obama's historic visit to Alaska.

The mountain had been named in 1896 for a future US president, William McKinley, but local authorities had worked on the change for years, restoring an Alaska Native name with deep cultural significance.

"Finalising a process initiated by the State of Alaska in 1975, President Obama is announcing that the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell used her authority to rename the mountain as Denali," a White House statement says.

"Generally believed to be central to the Athabascan creation story, Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives.

"The name Denali has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today."

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska led the effort to make the change official.

The mountain rises about 6000 meters above sea level.

Obama will spend three days in Alaska from Monday (local time) and become the first sitting US president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, the setting of the most spectacular impacts of climate change.

Just three months ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris, the US president wants to shore-up public support to tackle what he calls "one of the greatest challenges we face this century".