There are no roads or established trails within the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Hikers should practice Leave No Trace Techniques, be aware of backcountry safety guidelines and remain aware of the fragile ecosystems and private land within the park.
Visitors are strongly encouraged to practice minimum impact/ leave no trace camping guidelines at all times. Fires should be used only when regulations permit and if possible, kept on river bars below the high water line.
Additional Hiking Information and Tips
The Brooks Range is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears primarily inhabit the forested areas of the park, grizzly bears live mainly on the open tundra, but may be encountered in all areas of the park.
The bears of the Brooks Range are wild creatures, free to behave as they wish. If annoyed or surprised, these solitary animals can be dangerous to intruders. For your own protection, as well as to keep the bears healthy and wild, please carefully read and abide by the following rules:
Allowing a bear to obtain human food or garbage, even once, will cause it to seek out more human food. Eventually, if the bear becomes a threat to human safety, it will be killed. For this reason, it is against the law to feed bears in Gates of the Arctic, either on purpose or by carelessly leaving food or garbage where bears can get to it.
Visitors to Gates of the Arctic's backcountry are encouraged to store their food and garbage in special Bear Resistant Food Containers. These containers are lightweight, cylindrical canisters specifically designed to keep bears from obtaining food and garbage from people in the backcountry.
NO UNATTENDED FOOD CACHES IN NON-BEAR RESISTANT FOOD CONTAINERS ARE PERMITTED.
Defensive aerosol sprays which contain capsicum (red pepper extract) have been used as an alternative for protection against bear attacks. This spray, has proven effective in some situations. It is easy to carry and has a range of up to 6-8 yards. You must handle it carefully - if sprayed upwind, it may blow back into your face and disable you. Similarly, do not transport it in a vehicle or light plane unless it is in an air-tight container because accidental discharge could disable the driver or pilot.
Fishing is permitted in both Park and Preserve with a valid Alaska State Fishing License. Applicable sportfishing regulations can be found in the Alaska state fishing booklets where licenses are sold.
The Park encourages catch and release fishing as a means of preserving the diversity and numbers of species. Short growing seasons and long winters mean slow growth for many of the fish found in the Brooks Range. Fisherman are encouraged to use barbless hooks and be familiar with proper releasing techniques. For a pamhlet on these techniques please contact the Visitor Use Assistant at the Bettles Ranger Station. Be sure to indicate which type of fish you are seeking.
Visitors expecting to supplement their diet with fresh fish may find themselves going hungry.Often the fishing is disappointing due to silt laden waters. Be sure to carry plenty of extra food supplies in bear resistant food containers.
Aircraft may be used in support subsistence and sport hunting in the Preserve only. Snowmachines and dog teams may be used whenever snow cover is adequate to prevent impairment to the natural resources. Off oroad vehicles may not be used in either the Park or Preserve (however, certain exceptions may apply to residents of Anaktuvuk Pass).
A valid state license is required to hunt, fish, or trap on any Gates of the Arctic lands. All such activity must be done in accordance with state and federal laws.
Within the Preserve lands sport hunting, fishing and trapping camps may not be in place for more than 14 days without a permit issued by the Superintendent. On park lands subsistence regulations apply (no sport hunting or trapping).
The fish populations in arctic waters, although seemingly abundant, have very low growth rates and productivity, and are therefore highly susceptible to overfishing. The most widespread species in the park and preserve is the arctic grayling, which is found in nearly all permanent watercourses and those lakes that have an outlet stream. Lake trout, northern pike, arctic char, whitefish, sheefish, salmon, long-nosed sucker, burbot, nine-spined stickleback, and slimy sculpin also occur.
The Kobuk and Koyukuk rivers are the major chum salmon spawning streams. Sheefish also spawn in the Kobuk. These fish, along with the whitefish, are the most important subsistence fishes. Some lake trout and arctic char are also taken from lakes for subsistence use. Recreational fishing is primarily for arctic grayling, arctic char, sheefish, and lake trout
An Alaska State fishing license is required. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged. Cold waters and short seasons limit productivity. To prevent bear problems. Avoid getting fish odors on clothing and equipment.
|Type of Fish||Location|
|Char||North Slop streams and some lakes|
|Chum Salmon||Kobuk and Alatna Rivers|
|Grayling||Clear lakes and streams|
|Lake Trout||Deep lakes|
|Sheefish||Kobuk and Alatna Rivers|
You may carry firearms for protection. Be familiar with the weapon and its potential. Shooting, other than for protection, is prohibited in the park.
Hunting is allowed for non-local hunters in the Preserve areas only. These lands constitute almost 1 million acres and are located in the northeast and southwest corners of the Park and Preserve. Hunting eligibility, seasons, and bag limits for non-local hunters fall under the State of Alaska Hunting Regulations.
Ignorance is no excuse - you must know the law!
If you violate a game law you are responsible for your actions.
You must consult both State of Alaska Hunting Regulations and Subsistence Management Regulations for Federal Lands before hunting in Gates of the Arctic National Preserve. There is no sport hunting in Gates of the Arctic National Park
Salvage of the Meat
Wanton waste of edible meat is an extremely serious offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and 1 year in jail. (AS 16.30.010)
By law you must salvage all of the edible meat of moose, caribou, sheep, spring black bear, muskox, and small game birds for which seasons and bag limits exist. Edible meat of big game includes meat of the ribs, neck, brisket, front quarters as far as the distal joint of the radius-ulna (knee), hindquarters as far as the distal joint of the tibia-fibula (hock) and that portion of the animal between the front and hind quarters.
(NOTE: During 1995 three cases of Failure to Salvage were successfully prosecuted from the Kobuk River drainage. These cases resulted in fines, loss of hunting privileges, and confiscation of property.)
You must bring out the meat from the kill site to your departure point from the field (landing strip, trail head, road, river, etc.) before transporting antlers or horns from the kill site. (Antlers and horns may be transported simultaneously with the last load of meat.) After leaving the field, antlers or horns being transported must be accompanied by all edible meat unless possession of the meat has been transferred to and accepted by someone else.
State of Alaska General Hunting and Fishing Regulations
Often the state of Alaska administers a hunt for the same species in the same area as a Federal subsistence hunt. You may not add the harvest limit from Federal subsistence and State general hunt regulations together to increase your harvest limit.
If you are not a rural resident of Alaska, you may hunt or fish on most Federal public lands, except national parks and monuments, under State of Alaska general hunting and fishing regulations. You may not hunt or fish under the Federal subsistence regulations. Contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for a regulations booklet and more information.
Plan. Pick. Watch.Check - Follow that recipe for safe river crossings.
Plan a careful route and a good technique. Stream currents are swift and cold, and the water level can rise significantly within a few hours, making a slow stream an impassable torrent. Silt carried in the rivers can prevent a clear view of the obstacles along the bottom.
Pick a route through the widest channels or where there are many channels instead of just one. As water disperses it'll run more slowly and shallow out. Spend time walking up and downstream, or climbing to a high point, in order to find a crossing site suitable for the entire group.
Watch the water's surface while choosing a route, since this may offer the most reliable information about depth and riverbed composition. Don't cross through standing waves. There the bottom is uneven and water is deep. Do cross where there are small, closely spaced ripples. There the water is shallow over a smooth bottom. Keep in mind that Brooks Range rivers are often deeper after the warmest part of the day due to melting of snowpack high in the mountains.
Check your choice by throwing big rocks into the water. A hollow "ka-thump" sounds in deep water. If the rock moves downstream before sinking to the bottom, or if submerged rocks can be heard rolling downstream, the current may be too swift to cross at that point.
Finally, always include an option for a retreat back to shore should the crossing become too difficult. Never over commit yourself to one route.
Before you cross, remember:
Seal all essential items, such as dry clothing and sleeping bags, in watertight, plastic bags.
Do not cross barefoot or in socks alone! Shoes protect your feet from rocks, and allow you to hop along with the current.
Release the waist and sternum belts of your pack. Should you fall, you must be able to jettison the pack before it fills up with water and drags you down.
As you cross remember:
Keep your eyes on the far shore. You may become dizzy if you look down at the water.
Solo crossings are not recommended, however, if you have no other options, cross downstream at an angle using a long, sturdy stick for support.
After you cross:
Congratulate yourself! Although an un-bridged river presents many challenges, it is also part of true wilderness hiking
Special Requirements for National Park Service Lands
Subsistence use of resources in areas managed by the National Park Service is subject to additional rules. In Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve individuals holding special permits issued by the Superintendent or who reside in the following communities may engage in subsistence activities: Alatna, Allakaket, Ambler, Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles/Evansville, Hughes, Kobuk, Nuiqsut, Shungnak, and Wiseman. Users of National Park Service areas are responsible for complying with regulations (codified in 36 CFR part 13, Subparts A, B, and C).
You may encounter subsistence activities in the park. Camps, fishnets, traps and equipment are private property. Both small and large tracts of privately owned lands are located in and next to park lands. These are not open to public travel or use without permission of the owner. Please observe common courtesies and respect privacy and property.
As Alaska's population grew after Statehood, new and conflicting demands were made on natural resources. Most dramatically, the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay provided momentum for an effort to resolve the aboriginal land claims of Alaska Native people. A central focus of this movement was the protection of the Native hunting and fishing lifestyle, which came to be known as subsistence.
The U. S. Congress acknowledged the importance of subsistence hunting and fishing to Alaska Natives, in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, but provided no specific protection. More direct action was needed to protect subsistence activities in Alaska. In 1980, Congress established a framework for protecting subsistence uses by both Natives and non-Natives in Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Title VIII authorizes the State of Alaska to regulate subsistence uses on Federal public lands (with certain restrictions).
"Subsistence is a way that Native Peoples of Alaska have preserved their cultures. This way of life is not confined to the land. It stretches out to the sky and the waters and rivers. The creatures of the earth give themselves to the People, who in turn share with family and friends, shaping relationships that celebrate life."
Helga Eakon - Inupiaq Eskimo, and Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Coordinator
Many Alaskans live off the land, relying on fish, wildlife and other wild resources. Alaska Natives have used these resources for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, handicrafts and trade for thousands of years. Other residents living in rural Alaska depend on local harvests as reliable and economic food sources.
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