There are a number of things to do while enjoying Gates of the Arctic National park. These activities include but are not limited to backpacking, birding, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, photography, ranger led activities and wildlife watching.
The park and preserve encompass landforms ranging from the southern foothills, across the ragged-peaked Brooks Range, to the beginning of the rolling hills of the Arctic Coastal Plain. Remote, glacier-carved valleys dissect the range and hold clearwater rivers and alpine lakes. Tree limit generally occurs at about 2,100 feet of elevation on south-facing slopes. Beyond the tree limit shrubs and tundra prevail.
|Anaktuvuk Pass||National Natural Landmarks|
The native residents of Anaktuvuk Pass are the last remaining band of Nunamiut Eskimo, a semi-nomadic inland group whose ancestors date back for hundreds of years. They settled permanently in this location in the early l950's, which historically and to this day is a major caribou migration route. In times past their subsistence needs required utilization of nearly the entire Central Brooks Range. Even today they still continue to depend on caribou and other natural resources for food, clothing and cultural continuity. Although the village has undergone many cultural and technological changes in the past few decades, the Nunamiut have retained their basic lifestyle, identity and social structure to a remarkable degree.
The establishment of Gates of Arctic National Park and Preserve in 1980 placed Anaktuvuk Pass virtually in the middle of a nationally recognized unit of the National Park system. The resulting publicity from the establishment of the park has increased visitation to this region and can potentially be disruptive to the existing community.
Natives today maintain ownership of approximately 175,000 acres in the Anaktuvuk Pass region. Ownership may be through village and regional corporations or native allotments. A majority of the village and regional lands surround the village while native allotments are scattered throughout the park.
Beginning at the earliest stages of planning for the formation of the park, the National Park Service recognized a national interest and was mandated by the United States Congress to insure the protection of the Nunamiut culture and lifestyle, including subsistence use and privately owned lands. The Nunamiut Eskimo of Anaktuvuk Pass retain a strong environmental identity involving traditional use with the surrounding areas. Therefore, the National Park Service has joined with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Nunamiut Village Corporation and have established a cooperative land use agreement. This agreement allows for local residents to operate all-terrain vehicles for subsistence activities during the summer months to certain lands near the Anaktuvuk Pass area.
As you travel across the land you may encounter local residents engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, berry picking, or other subsistence activities at any time. These activities may be free-ranging or stationary. Fishing and hunting camps as well as traplines (areas where trapping occurs, generally along rivers and creeks) are not uncommon to come across. In addition, please be aware your physical presence can unintentionally influence game movements and result in disrupting the village subsistence activities. Please consider carefully your presence in the village as well as while traveling across native lands. The impact of your visit may be kept to a minimum by following these suggestions:
For public convenience, the village has designated a specific area for overnight camping within the community. This camping area is located among the willows along the east side of the runway opposite the town. Please check at the store, restaurant, community center, or ranger station for more information. Camping within sight of the village but outside of this designated area is perceived being disrespectful toward the residents and should be avoided.
Native corporation lands completely surround the city of Anaktuvuk Pass and extend for several miles. These are privately owned lands. Maps showing these lands are located at the ranger station in Anaktuvuk Pass. Visitors are allowed access onto these lands by foot and/or dog team. However, camping within one-half mile of an active hunting camp or camping for more than one night at the same site on these corporation lands is prohibited except in emergencies. Inquire locally at the ranger station or Nunamiut Corporation office for further information.
Available Services In Anaktuvuk Pass:
Simon Paneak Museum
Anaktuvuk Pass Community Center (city clerk office, community events bulletin board)
U.S. Post Office
Nunamiut Corporation Office(motel, stove fuel, hardware parts, gasoline, fishing licenses)
Nunamiut Corporation Restaurant (open seasonally)
Nunamiut Corporation store (limited groceries & souvenirs)
Lela's Traditional Masks & Snacks (local crafts, post cards, snack food, souvenirs)
Elegant Gifts and Scents (T-shirts, post cards, Avon products)
Plan to bring everything you will need with you. Being a bush community supplies are limited and sometimes not available.
Remember that hours for the above services are for the most part consistent with typical business hours but not always.
National Natural Landmarks
In 1962 the Secretary of the Interior established the National Natural Landmarks Program as a natural areas survey to identify and encourage the preservation of geologic features and biotic communities that best illustrate the natural heritage of the United States. Two sites within Gates of the Arctic were designated national natural landmarks in April 1968-- Arrigetch Peaks (37,400 acres) and Walker Lake (181,120 acres).
The wildlife of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is representative of northern Alaska and the Brooks Range. Species are relatively few, and their populations are frequently low compared to numbers in more temperate regions. The populations of some animals such as lynx and hare, are characterized by ups and downs called cycles. These may be annual or spread over several years. There are no known threatened or endangered wildlife species within the park and preserve.
A total of 36 species of mammals occur within the park, ranging in size from voles and lemmings to brown bears and moose.Small mammals form the base of the arctic food chain and are a critical element in the survival of many raptors and large mammals. Singing, tundra, and red-backed voles and brown and collared lemmings convert plant resources to flesh on which a variety of predators depend. Collectively, small rodents may have a profound localized effect on tundra vegetation. Larger rodents include the arctic ground squirrel and Alaskan marmot. Arctic ground squirrels occur primarily on well drained soils along rivers or on slopes. They are commonly observed and can often be a problem at cabins, food caches, and camps.
The fur bearers common to Alaska are present, although many, such as marten and lynx, are mostly limited to the forested areas in the southern half of the park. Beaver, mink, and otter are present but are limited by a scarcity of suitable aquatic habitats. Red foxes, including the silver, black and cross fox color phases, occur throughout the area, and arctic foxes occur occasionally in the northernmost parts of the park. Wolverines are present throughout. The most important species trapped by subsistence users within the park are marten, lynx, beaver, fox, and wolf.
Wolves occur throughout the park and preserve, traveling in packs or family groups as they hunt. The main prey of wolves in the central Brooks Range and on the arctic slope is caribou; however, other prey species may be used extensively if caribou are not available, principally Dall sheep, small mammals, moose, snowshoe hare, and beaver. Denning usually occurs on dry, well drained slopes where excavation of soils is not hindered by frozen ground. Litters average five or six pups. Wolves are a source of income for the resident of Anaktuvuk Pass and other villages, who trap and hunt them.
Brown bears (barren-ground grizzlies) occur throughout the park and preserve. They are among the earth's largest predators, but in the Brooks Range they feed mostly as vegetarians, eating berries, sedges, hedysarum, and other plants. They also feed on small mammals and may spend hours excavating ground squirrel burrows, locally disrupting much of the ground surface in the pursuit of their prey. The bears will kill moose calves and caribou fawns and occasionally adults. Some scavenging also occurs. Brown bear populations concentrate along most of the major streams and rivers within the park. Although brown bears range through all habitat types, they are most commonly found in open alpine or tundra habitats. Brown bears gain weight rapidly during the late summer and fall and are waddling in fat just prior to denning. At this time most mature males weigh between 500 and 900 pounds with extremely large individuals weighing as much as 1,400 pounds. Females weigh one half to three quarters as much. There is an average of one brown bear for each 100 square miles of habitat in the Arctic.
Black bears, which are more common in the southern forested regions, have similar food habitats and behavior. Black bears are creatures of opportunity with it comes to matters of food. Upon emergence from hibernation in the spring, freshly sprouted green vegetation is the main food item, but blacks will readily take anything they encounter. Things such as winterkilled animals are readily eaten, but carrion is apparently taken only if little else is available. As summer progresses, feeding shifts to salmon if they are available. In areas without salmon, bears rely primarily on vegetation throughout the year. Berries, especially blueberries, are an important late summer-fall food item. Bears are cannibalistic on occasion. An "average" adult male in summer weighs about 180-200 pounds. Black bears have very poor eyesight but their senses of smell and hearing are well-developed.
Moose, Dall sheep and caribou are the three ungulate mammals occurring in the area. Moose are most common in the forested regions south of the Brooks Range, but their range extends up mountain valleys into the larger northern drainages wherever trees and shrubs provide food and winter habitat. In summer moose frequently move into alpine habitat, but they are uncommon at the crest of the range.
Moose are an important subsistence resource for villages south and west of the park and residents of Anaktuvuk Pass harvest moose occasionally. Sport hunting for moose along the Kobuk River in the preserve is becoming a more popular activity. Hunters gain access by air or boat.
Dall sheep are widespread throughout the mountainous alpine areas of the park and preserve. Rugged terrain with cliffs, steep slopes and rocky outcrops is essential escape habitat. Mineral licks are seasonally very important, and the sheep may travel some distance to reach a lick site. Sheep find critical winter forage on windblown ridges where the snow has been blown away, leaving the vegetation exposed. The current sheep population in the park and preserve is estimated at 12,000-14,000 animals.
Caribou of the western arctic herd today range over the entire region. The herd declined from a population of at least 242,000 animals in 1970 to an estimated 75,000 animals in 1976. Since that time the herd has increased in size, and in 1982 it was estimated at 171,699 animals. In 1984 the herd size was projected to number approximately 200,000. The herd migrates through the park and preserve as it moves from wintering grounds south and west of the park to calving areas northwest of the park and to summer range north of the park. Some of the animals use summer range along the northern reaches of the park, and some winter in the southern part of the park, especially in the Kobuk River valley.
The western arctic caribou herd is most widely dispersed in midwinter, when bands are scattered throughout the forests on the south slopes of the Brooks Range and in the adjacent lowlands, and again in midsummer, when they are scattered over the arctic slope west of the Sagavanirktok River. Spring movement to summer ranges begins in March, when bands of females travel northward up the Alatna, John, and North Fork of the Koyukuk drainages and cross the summit of the Brooks Range into the valleys of such rivers as the Killik, Chandler, and Anaktuvuk, which they follow or cross in a generally westward movement to calving grounds at the head of the Utukok and Colville. Males and some yearlings begin moving somewhat later. After calving in late May, the animals join increasingly larger groups to move to higher country on the North Slope and in the foothills of the Brooks Range. Once there they gradually disperse, using summer range from the Arctic Ocean to the summits of the Brooks Range by late July. A southward drifting of caribou begins in August, and in the park it is directed toward the Anaktuvuk Pass and Killik River areas. Migration continues through the rut in October, until the wintering grounds are reached.
Caribou have historically played an important role in human survival in arctic regions. Subsistence users still rely heavily on caribou. Since the range of the western arctic herd extends across many landownerships, management of the herd requires careful coordination between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the various landowners, as well as the hunters who harvest the herd.
At the Arctic Divide the rank reverse as the tundra stretches to the Arctic Ocean. Six national wild rivers - that Alatna, John, Kobuk, Noatak, North Fork Koyukuk, and the Tinayguk - are among the numberless waterways transecting the park.
|Approx Length in Miles||83|
|Scenic Quality||High; variety from snow-capped mountains to spruce-hardwood forest|
|Recreational Opportunities||Plentiful sightseeing, nature study, hiking, photography, fishing and floating|
|Geologic Features||Rugged mountains of central Brooks Range including Arrigetch Peaks|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Easily observed, variety of large and small mammals, migration route for arctic caribou herd|
|Approx Length in Miles||52|
|Scenic Quality||Outstanding; high relief, vegetative variety, exposed rock, cliffs, and outcroppings|
|Recreational Opportunities||Numerous, family float stream, excellent hiking & backpacking in upper river area|
|Geologic Features||Wide glacial valleys dissecting central Brooks Range|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Variety of large and small mammals, important migration route for arctic caribou herd, unique habitat for William's milk vetch|
|Approx Length in Miles||110|
|Scenic Quality||Wide valleys with sweeping vistas of nearby hills and low mountains, Walker Lake, two canyons|
|Recreational Opportunities||Exceptional float river, a few short stretches of extremely rugged rapids (up to class V), good opportunities for sport hunting (in Preserve only), wildlife observation and backpacking|
|Geologic Features||Endicott Mountains of central Brooks Range, upper and lower Kobuk canyons|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Variety of fish and wildlife, one of largest concentrations of sheefish, wintering grounds for western arctic caribou herd, one of the largest continuous spruce forest areas in the Brooks Range|
|Cultural Resources||Highly significant potential for archeology because of continuous occupation and links between inland Eskimo people|
|Approx Length in Miles||65 (continues for 265 miles in Noatak National Preserve)|
|Scenic Quality||Glacial valley with snowcapped peaks|
|Recreational Opportunities||One of the longest designated wild rivers in Alaska, good floating, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing opportunities|
|Geologic Features||Mount Igikpak and Schwalka Mountains of west-central Brooks Range, narrow glacial valley|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Plentiful caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bear, several species of raptors|
|Cultural Resources||Transportation route by natives for thousands of years|
|Approx Length in Miles||102|
|Scenic Quality||Glacial valleys bordered by rugged peaks of Endicott Mountains in central Brooks Range, Frigid Crags, and Boreal Mountain|
|Recreational Opportunities||Access at headwaters, outstanding wilderness backpacking, clear water and challenging whitewater|
|Geologic Features||South flank of the arctic Continental Divide, through glacial valleys bordered by Endicott Mountains|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Variety of wildlife, major caribou migration route|
|Approx Length in Miles||44|
|Scenic Quality||Broad glacial valley bordered by the rugged peaks of the Endicott Mountains|
|Recreational Opportunities||High potential for hiking and backpacking. Access is more difficult than North Fork Koyukuk|
|Geologic Features||South flank of the arctic Continental Divide, through glacial valleys bordered by Endicott Mountains|
|Fish, Fauna, and Flora||Variety of wildlife|
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