Alaska's Ultimate Wilderness
Few landmarks bear names on topographic maps here. The park name came from wilderness advocate Robert Marshall, who traveled the North Fork Koyukuk country frequently from 1929 to 1939. Marshall called two peaks. Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, the gates from Alaska's central Brooks Range into the far north Arctic. Wind, water, temperature, and glacial and tectonic actions sculpted wildly varied landscapes in this east-west trending part of the Rocky Mountains. Southerly foothills step into waves of mountains rising to elevations of 4,000 feet that culminate in limestone or granite peaks over 7,000 feet in elevation. Then the ranks reverse at the Arctic Divide: tundra stretches to the Arctic Ocean. Six national wild riversAlatna, John, Kobuk, Noatak, North Fork Koyukuk, and Tinaygukand other waterways cross the park. Many people seek remote wilderness and solitude here. A primary goal of park management is to protect these opportunities.
People have been a part of the ecosystem here for 10,000 years. Nomadic hunters and gatherers traveled between the mountains' forested southern slopes and the Arctic Coast. Now their descendants depend on and use park and preserve resources. A Nunamiut Eskimo village, Anaktuvuk Pass, lies inside the park. Winter is long, and summer is active. Plants and animals move through life cycles quickly before winter sets in.
From November to March, most activity ceases while -20°F to -50°F temperatures persist. The dry interior climate sees little snow, but what falls stays to wrap land and rivers in ice and silence. As a low-riding Sun starts its warming ascent in April, dogsledders come out. Backpackers and river runners arrive in mid-June, as the rivers become free of ice. No trails or visitor services exist in the park. You must be self-sufficient.
Created to ensure the arctic environment's integrity, the park contains major parts of the range and habitat of the Western Arctic caribou herd. Grizzly and black bear, wolf, moose, Dall sheep, wolverine, muskox, and fox also live here. At spring breakup the few resident bird species are joined by migratory species from Europe, South America, Asia, tropical archipelagos, and the contiguous United States. Wildlife is varied but widely dispersedbecause large areas are needed to sustain life in the Arctic. Wildlife sightings may be greatly affected by your party size, travel patterns, and the weather.
Sparse black-spruce forests called taiga (Russian for "land of little sticks") dot north-facing slopes and poorly drained lowland. Boreal forests of white spruce, aspen, and birch typically are found on south-facing slopes. Near tree line, the shrub-thicket community of dwarf and resin birch, alder, and willow appears. Heath, moss, and fragile lichen make up the understory. Alpine tundra communities occur in mountainous areas and along well-drained, rocky ridges. Alder thickets and tussocks in valleys and on slopes often impede hiking in the Arctic. Backpackers often make only five miles per day. Take your time: don't try to squeeze a 21-day arctic trip into a 14-day "lower-48" trip.
The 1980 legislation that created the park and the preserve protected 8.4 million acres. It mandated that the area be managed to maintain its wild and undeveloped character, opportunities for solitude, and the environmental integrity of its natural features and to provide for wilderness recreation. Fish and wildlife, arctic habitats, cultural resources, and traditional subsistence uses also were protected. With the adjacent Noatak National Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park, Gates of the Arctic comprises one of the world's largest parkland areas.
Gates of the Arctic, in the central Brooks Range, is a wilderness park accessible to backcountry travelers. The park has no signs, facilities, roads, or trails. Travel is by foot or boat (canoe, raft, or kayak). In this arctic wilderness you must be well prepared and self-sufficient. In much of the park it may be days or weeks before you encounter another person. It is your responsibility to: 1 choose where to go, 2 decide how to travel, and 3 have the appropriate equipment and skills for a safe, enjoyable trip.
Preparation For backcountry information visit www.nps.gov/gaar or contact the Bettles Ranger Station. Our website covers trip planning, bear safety, river crossings, boating safety, wildlife viewing, weather, insects, Leave No Trace practices, designated Wild Rivers, further reading, commercial accommodations, guide services, outfitters, commercial air services, and air charter services. Our website is more detailed and complete than our printed material. For maps and map information visit store.usgs.gov.
Choosing Where To Go Deciding where to go can be a challenge. Gates of the Arctic is huge2.6 times the size of Connecticutand access is limited. Read about the park, study maps, determine your access points, and make a plan. Park staff, air charter services, guides, or outfitters can provide information. Flexibility is key to successful trips. Weather can delay, by days, your flights in or out of the park. How far you can hike in a day may vary greatly from the "typical" five miles. Do not use the map in this brochure for hiking. Use USGS topographical maps.
Getting to the Park Charter planes can fly you into the park. Access points are limited to gravel bars or bodies of water accessible by float plane. Hiking from the Dalton Highway is popular but limited by river crossings. Commercial air service serves Anaktuvuk Pass, and you can hike from there into the park.
Backcountry Orientation Get a backcountry safety and Leave No Trace orientation from a park ranger at the Bettles Ranger Station, Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, or Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station. Backcountry permits are not required but registration is strongly encouraged for your safety.
Leave No Trace Please be responsible and practice the principles of Leave No Trace:
• Plan ahead and prepare.
Subsistence Use Local residents use the park for subsistence activities (hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering). Camps, fishnets, traps, and equipment are private property. Private land exists in the park; use restrictions may apply.
Source: NPS Brochure (2008)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
2008 Aerial Dall's Sheep Survey in the Itkillik Preserve, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/ARCN/NRTR-2010/409 (Kumi L. Rattenbury and James P Lawler, December 2010)
Aerial Moose Survey within and around Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, March 2015 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2015/967 (Mathew S. Sorum, Kyle Joly and Matthew D. Cameron, May 2015)
Analysis of VHF Moose Telemetry Data within the Upper Koyukuk River Drainage, 2008-2013 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2015/970 (Matthew D. Cameron, Kyle Joly and Mathew S. Sorum, May 2015)
Arctic Citadel: A History of Exploration in the Brooks Range Region of Northern Alaska Historic Context Study for: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Cape Krusenstern National Monument (Chris Allan, 2014)
Backcountry Use Impacts and Media Coverage in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2017/1444 (Casey Sigg and Nina Chambers, May 2017)
Botanical Survey at Reed River Hot Springs, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR) NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2016/1136 (Lisa Strecker, February 2016)
Brooks Range Snowshoe Hares (Finally) on the Rise: Snowshoe Hare Ecology Project 2016 Update NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2017/1424 (Donna L. DiFolco, Knut Kiellnd and Julie Maier, April 2017)
Caribou, grizzly bear, and moose activity along proposed routes to the Ambler Mining District, Alaska NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2016/1283 (Kyle Joly, Matthew D. Cameron and Mathew S. Sorum, August 2016)
Climate Change Scenario Planning for Interior Arctic Alaska Parks: Noatak Gates of the Arctic Kobuk Valley NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/AKSO/NRR-2014/833 (Robert Winfree, Bud Rice, John Morris, Nancy Swanton, Don Callaway, Jeff Mow, Nancy Fresco and Lena Krutikov, July 2014)
Dall's Sheep in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska: 2010 Survey Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/GAAR/NRDS-2011/198 (Kumi L. Rattenbury and Joshua H. Schmidt, October 2011)
Enjoy the View Visual Resources Inventory Report, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2016/1295 (Mark E. Meyer and Robert G. Sullivan, September 2016)
Environmental Overview and Analysis of Mining Effects, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (D. Stenmark, D. Schramm, K. Schoenberg, D. Hamson, A. Carter, June 1983)
Evaluating Differences in Household Subsistence Harvests Patterns between the Ambler Project and Non-Project Zones NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2016/1280 (Mouhcine Guettabi, Joshua Greenberg, Joseph Little and Kyle Joly, August 2016)
Fortune's Distant Shores: A History of the Kotzebue Sound Gold Stampede in Alaska's Arctic Historic Context Study for: Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (Chris Allan, 2019)
Foundation Statement, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska (Draft, December 2009)
Gates of the Arctic Wilderness: 30 Year Perspective (Suzanne Stutzman, November 2014)
Hydrologic data and a proposed water-quality monitoring network for Kobuk River basin, gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 2001-4141 (Timothy P. Brabets, 2001)
Insect Pollinators of Gates of the Arctic NPP: A Preliminary Survey of Bees (Hymenoptera: Anthophila) and Flower Flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/GAAR/NRR-2017/1541 (Jessica J. Rykken, October 2017)
Landbird Monitoring in the Arctic Network, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Noatak National Preserve (2010 Report) NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/ARCN/NRDS-2012/315 (Kristin DeGroot and Jennifer McMillan, April 2012)
Landsat derived map and landcover descriptions for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve Natural Resource Technical Report. NPS/GAAR/NRTR1999/001 (K.W. Boggs, et al., 1999)
Snowshoe Hare Abundance in the Wiseman Area of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska: Second Annual Study GARR-98-007 (Donna L. DiFolco, October 1998)
Snowshoe Hare Abundance near Wiseman, Alaska, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve: Seventh Annual Survey 2003 with 2004 Update and the New Study Plan GAAR-05-001 (Donna L. DiFolco and Julie A.K. Maier, 2005)
Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus) Ecology Monitoring, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Surrounding Areas NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/GAAR/NRDS-2015/783 (Donna L. DiFolco and Julie A.K. Maier, April 2015)
State of the Park Report, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska State of the Park Series No. 49 (2017)
Summary of Ground Temperature Observations in the Kobuk Preserve Unit, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, 2014-2016 NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/GAAR/NRDS-2016/1069 (David K. Swanson, November 2016)
Vegetation and Snow Phenology Monitoring in the Arctic Network through 2020: Results from Satellites and Land-based Cameras NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/ARCN/NRR-2021/2337 (David K. Swanson, December 2021)
Water Quality Inventory and Monitoring, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, 1992-1995 (Jacqueline D. LaPerriere, 1999)
Whitefish: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Subsistence Fishing in the Kotzebue Sound Region, Alaska Alaska Department of Fish and Game Technical Paper No. 290 (Susan Georgette and Attamuk Shiedt, January 2005)
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Last Updated: 09-Apr-2022