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Far North
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Far North


The Brooks Range

James Dalton Highway (AK11)—Livengood to Prudhoe Bay

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Anaktuvuk Pass

Noatak National Preserve

The North Slope

Kaktovik (Barter island)

Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay)


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Location/Size: Far northeastern Alaska, encompassing eastern Brooks Range and North Slope. 19 million acres (8 million acres designated wilderness—the second-largest national wildlife refuge in the nation).

Main Activities: Wilderness exploration, backpacking, mountaineering, river running, coastal kayaking, fishing.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay)/vehicle access via Dalton Highway, scheduled air service from Fairbanks and Barrow; Kaktovik/charter air service from Deadhorse; Arctic Village/charter air service from Fairbanks and other points. Park access by coastal kayak and cargo boat; charter air from Deadhorse, Fort Yukon, and Kaktovik; foot access from Dalton Highway and Arctic Village.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: No facilities. Primitive camping only.

Headquarters and Information: Refuge Manager, P.O. Box 20, Room 266, Federal Building and Courthouse, 101 12th Avenue, Fairbanks, AK 99701, 456-0250, www.r7.fws.gov/nwr/arctic/r7arctc.html.

America’s second-largest and northernmost wildlife refuge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure. Commonly known by its acronym, ANWR (AN-wahr) encompasses virtually the entire northeastern corner of Alaska—an area larger than West Virginia. The four highest peaks and most of the glaciers of the Brooks Range are within the refuge, as are the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd (named after the Porcupine River, which flows through the southern end of the refuge). At least 180 species of birds and 36 species of land mammal are found within ANWR, including all three bear species. Nine marine mammal species frequent the coasts.

All access to ANWR is via air or water, or by extended trekking through the Brooks Range from the Dalton Highway. Bush planes regularly fly in hunters, fishers, and wilderness adventurers, landing on gravel bars for drop-offs then returning to a designated rendezvous days later. Kayak and raft outfitters have identified several routes, including a couple that follow rivers from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. In general, however, pilots and outfitters are at the service of adventurous travelers who have their own ideas about explorations. Expect to spend upwards of $300 per hour for shuttle flights, remembering that distances are great in the refuge—a drop-off and pick-up could easily cost your party over $1,200. Fully outfitted and guided multiday trips will run several thousand dollars.

Only two settlements are in close proximity to the refuge, both offering air-link possibilities. Arctic Village (population 132, 94 percent Neets’aii Gwichin Athabascan) is in the Interior on ANWR’s southern boundary, closer to the high-peaks areas than any other access point, though still 40 to 70 air miles away. There are no services. The Eskimo town of Kaktovik is on the Arctic Ocean (see below). The pack ice breaks up near the coast by mid- to late July, enabling kayak access to lagoons along the shore. Many who visit ANWR base their expeditions in Fairbanks and fly directly to drop-off points or to smaller towns for further shuttles. Others drive the Dalton to settlements and private airstrips. See the appendix for outfitters and air services.

Of the 18 major rivers that drain through the refuge from the Brooks Range or Canadian mountains, three are designated as national wild rivers: the Wind River and Sheenjek River flow south from the Brooks toward the Yukon, while the Ivishak River drains northward. Most rivers draining north are too rough for open canoes.

Visitors must be completely self-reliant. Consult your bush pilot or outfitter, as well as refuge officials.