Bettles and Evansville
Location/Climate: 180 air miles north of Fairbanks, west of the Dalton Highway, at the southern foot of the Brooks Range. 13.4"/yr. precip., 77"/yr. snowfall, below zero°F70-plus°F.
Population: Bettles 34 (22 percent native), Evansville 30 (58 percent native).
Travel Attractions: Access to Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, river runs, backcountry lodging.
Getting There: Scheduled air service from Fairbanks; winter vehicle access to Dalton Highway via Hickel Trail.
Information: Bettles City Office, 692-5191.
The settlement is named for Gordon Bettles, who opened a trading post during the 1899 gold rush at the northern terminus of the Koyukuk River barge line. The navy built the Bettles Field airstrip in 1945, while Wilford Evans Sr. (for whom Evansville is named) built the Bettles Lodge in 1950. Both settlements are small, though the short road system reaches other area residences.
Small planes shuttle many summer visitors into and out of the Bettles area, most on their way to the Brooks Range or a river drop-off. Nearby backcountry lodges offer a foothills retreat with the option of further guided or outfitted explorations (see the Appendix). The town is not the best choice as a backpacking base for the Brooks because it is far from the heights, but is better than Anaktuvuk Pass as a shuttle link from Fairbanks to Brooks drop-off spots.
River runners can put in here and float south on the Koyukuk River, or can fly to a drop-off upstream and float back down to Bettles. Upstream features rougher runs in scenic mountains while downstream offers easier floats through the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. Consult the Bettles rangers or lodge and tour operators about possibilities.
Where to Stay and Eat in Bettles and Evansville
Bettles Lodge, P.O. Box 27, Bettles, AK 99726, (800) 770-5111, 692-5111. Historic old lodge built in 1950; now there’s a new lodge, Jacuzzis, restaurant, and tavern.