Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Audio Available:

Quick Overview

This is the audio-only described version of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and National Preserve brochure. The first side of the brochure offers color photographs of the varied landscapes, people and natural elements in the park. The text provides information about the park’s natural and cultural history and planning a visit.

The second side of the brochure features a large overview map of the vast park and preserve area. The map depicts major natural features such as rivers and mountain ranges and indicates ranger stations, campgrounds, and airstrips.

↑ back to top

Side One Overview

The top photo takes up nearly have of side one of the brochure. It features a landscape photograph of a jagged, snow-covered mountain in the Brooks Range. At its bottom are seven photos depicting attributes of the park. They are from left to right:

  1. A peak along a river bank, its foliage in fall colors.  
  2. A young caribou standing on the tundra.  
  3. A flat tundra landscape in its summer colors.  
  4. A native Alaskan hunter carrying a caribou carcass over his shoulders.  
  5. A distant view of a tent and campers.  
  6. A tundra plant in fall colors.  
  7. A pile of rocks called an Inuksuk.  

Below the photos is text describing details of the park’s natural features, the human presence in the areas, the frigid temperatures and the legislation that made this area a park and preserve.

The bottom of the brochure contains text about trip planning resources and backcountry logistics as well as contact information for the park. In this section, there is a photo of people crossing a stream, a photo of rock jasmine flower and a small illustration of the shape of Alaska and where the park is located within the state.

Text and photos are described under their own titles.

↑ back to top

TEXT: Who Lives Here: From the Lowlands to the Peaks

From the lowlands in the south, foothills give way to ragged peaks in this northernmost stretch of the Rocky Mountains. On the north slope the nearly treeless tundra stretches north to the Arctic Ocean. In fall, golden leaves drape the southern slopes and the tundra blazes red on the northern slopes. These parklands protect important habitat for the caribou of the Western Arctic, Central Arctic, and Teshekpuk herds. These herds range widely eating the low-lying plants and slow-growing lichens that carpet the land. The caribou continue to be vital to local Native communities.

The Nunamiut and Athabascan peoples and some non-Native local residents pursue subsistence ways of life in the park today. Please respect their property, camps, and equipment.

Remote wildness and rugged distance characterize Gates of the Arctic and demand self-sufficiency from all who come here. Wilderness survival skills are essential. The park contains no developed facilities or trails.

The land features natural, archeological, and historical objects by the thousands. Please leave them as is for others to enjoy.

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Brooks Mountain Range

Description: The landscape featured is rugged, with many sharp, snow-covered peaks. There are no trails in the snow and the terrain is uneven, rocky and remote. While some browns of the land and rock poke out, the landscape is mostly snow-covered and white.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Tundra Fall Colors

Description: Small brightly colored, red oval shaped leaves on a cluster of branches dominate this photo. Within in the middle of this vegetation patch are a few slightly larger green oval leaves on a single stem, forming a stark contrast with the surrounding red leaves.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Young Caribou

Description: An adult caribou stands in the center of this photo on a treeless landscape. The caribou stands to the side with his head angled toward us. Dark brown fur covers its head, body and legs with lighter fur covering its chest and back. There is a white tip on the caribou’s tail. Antlers on top of its head are short. The caribou’s ears are alert and protrude away from its head.

Photo credit: Carl H. Johnson

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Tundra in Late Summer

Description: A green and red carpet of tundra vegetation covers a slope. Grey rock protrudes through exposed soil. Evening light bathes the distant mountains in a soft yellow glow. Hints of a blue sky poke through gray, storm-colored clouds.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Hunter

Description: This is a sepia-toned cut-out photograph of a native Alaskan man walking. He is dressed in a skin parka, pants, and boots. His parka hood is trimmed with fur. He carries a caribou carcass over his shoulders and holds the caribou's leg in his left hand. A skin bag is slung around his left shoulder and hangs below the waist on his backside. 

Photo credit: Ward Wells, Ward Wells Collection; Anchorage Museum. B1983.091.S3421.81

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Evening Camp

Description: Snow covered distant mountains are in background. The sky above is clear blue with no clouds. Lighting on the landscape is soft indicating night in the arctic. In the foreground, two people sit on the ground in front of a tent on a vast open landscape devoid of human development. They wear jackets with hoods that cover their heads. A door flap is open on the tent behind them. A prominent shadow from the mountain in the foreground indicates that the sun is setting.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Boreal Forest Fall Colors

Description: A large mountain is in the background and green and yellow trees are in the foreground at the foothills of the mountain. A blue sky is behind the mountain with a single cloud at the top of the mountain’s peak. The peak rises from the center of the photo. The mountain’s steep slopes are covered in gray rock. On the left side of the photo, the foothills are covered in a carpet of brown vegetation. On the right side of the photo, the gray rock making up the slope dominates the image. Across the very bottom of the mountain are yellow deciduous trees and taller green spruce trees right behind them. 

Photo credit: Carl H. Johnson

↑ back to top

PHOTO: Inuksuk, "Stone Person"

Description: Large slabs of rocks lay in a mound on the ground in a tuft of long grasses on top of a slope. One bigger brown pointed rock slab is supported by the other rocks. It protrudes upward from the mound. In the background is a large valley leading to a mountain range and cloudy sky.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

TEXT: 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 rivers—Alatna, John, Kobuk, Noatak, North Fork Koyukuk, and Tinayguk—and 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 over 13,000 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 Inupiat 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 the low-riding Sun starts its warming ascent in March, 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’s 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 dispersed—because 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 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 and don’t try to squeeze a 21- day arctic trip into a 14-day ”lower-48” trip.

The 1980 legislation creating the park and the preserve protected 8.4 million acres. The area is to be managed to maintain its wild and undeveloped character, including opportunities to experience solitude and environmental integrity, and for wilderness recreation. Fish and wildlife, arctic habitats, cultural resources, and traditional subsistence uses are also protected. With Noatak National Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park, Gates of the Arctic comprises one of the world’s largest parkland areas.

↑ back to top

TEXT: Planning Your Visit

The bottom one fifth of side one of the brochure provides information on how to plan your visit—from back country planning to contact information. This information and descriptions of the last three images on this side of the brochure are addressed under their own titles. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: Backcountry Visitors

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.


↑ back to top

PHOTO: Practice Safe River Crossings

Description: Three people stand in a line in the middle of a river. The water is about mid-calf to knee high. They are walking against the flow of the river with water swirling and splashing around their legs. They wear backpacks with the waist and shoulder straps unfastened and dangling at their sides. The first person in line holds an extended hiking pole in front of their body for stability. The hiking pole cuts through the water and appears to be resting on the bottom of the riverbed. The next person is directly behind the first and holds onto the first person’s backpack. The third person is directly behind the second and holds onto the second person’s backpack. A treeless riverbank covered in low growing plants is in the background.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

MAP: State of Alaska

Description: A shape of the state of Alaska is presented in solid black. A white dot and text label for Gates of the Arctic locate the park in the central northern area of the state near the top of the map.

The shape of Alaska has three distinct areas. The vast majority of the state is a large land mass that has a straight line border with Canada to the east, running north to south. Spanning across the northern part of the state, the border is irregular, sloping slightly upward. The west coast from north to south is a jagged coastline, interrupted with several large bays and islands that jut out. The southern border has two distinct features which are two sets of clustered islands each going in opposite directions.

The western set of islands is attached to the most southern and westward point of the mainland. The islands thread west and north toward Siberia in a long, narrow upward turning arc of islands, like a smile. The length of this island chain, in total, is longer than the width of the state's interior land mass. The islands grow smaller and more remote the further west they extend into the ocean.

The second set of islands attached to the lower right, southeastern border of the state extends further southeastward toward the continental U.S. along the border with Canada. It is a deep, dense, and complex archipelago of islands and intricate ocean passageways.

Photo credit: NPS


↑ back to top

PHOTO: Rock Jasmine

Description: This photo is a cut out of the rock jasmine flower. It has five pink and white oval petals similar in size. In the center of the flower is a yellow circle connecting all the petals.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

TEXT: Preparation

Our website, www.nps.gov/gaar, covers many topics needed to plan your visit and is more detailed and complete than our printed material. For maps and map information visit store.usgs.gov. Bear-resistant food containers are required for overnight camping in the park. 

↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Accessibility

 We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. Call or check our website. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: Firearms

For firearms regulations check the park website: www.nps.gov/gaar. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: Choosing Where to Go

Deciding where to go can be a challenge. Gates of the Arctic is huge—2.6 times the size of Connecticut —and 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. Do not use the map in this brochure for hiking. Use USGS topographical maps. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: 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. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: Backcountry Orientation

Get 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. 

↑ back to top

TEXT: Leave No Trace

Be responsible. Practice the principles of Leave No Trace:

↑ back to top

TEXT: 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. 

↑ back to top

Side Two: Park Map

Side two of the brochure is a map of the park and surrounding area. The following text about safety and private lands is on the map:

A description of the map and legend are under separate titles.


↑ back to top

DESCRIPTION: Map Legend

The park map’s legend is at the bottom of the map. It includes an arrow pointing north and scaled distances. A little more than one and three-eighths of an inch on the map equals 20 miles and about three-eights of an inch on the map equals 20 kilometers.

Labeled, color boxes from dark green to white indicate different areas on the map. They are: 

Three pictographs depict:

Amenities are outside of the park and primarily in the east. Two airstrips are identified outside of the park in the southwest.


↑ back to top

DESCRIPTION: Park Map

This map depicts all areas of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve including paved and unpaved roads, ranger stations, visitor centers, campgrounds, airstrips, major towns and adjacent public land units. The map is oriented with north at the top.

The park and preserve areas total about 8.4 million acres or 13,000 square miles. The area of the park under wilderness designation is about 7 million acres or 11,000 square miles.

Gates of the Arctic National Park is surrounded by Noatak National Preserve to the west, National Petroleum Reserve to the northwest, the North Slope to the north, the Dalton Highway and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the east, and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, and Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge to the south.

The Brooks Range transverses Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Schwatka Mountains are limited to the southwest corner of the park. The Endicott Mountains extend from the center of the park to the northeast corner of the park. The Arrigetch Peaks are in the southwest area of the park. Mount Igikpak is 20 miles directly west of the Arrigetch Peaks and is the tallest mountain in Gates of the Arctic National Park at 8,510 feet.

There are six wild and scenic rivers that flow through the park, including from west to east the Noatak, Kobuk, Alatna, John, Tinayguk and Koyukuk. 

The Dalton Highway is featured on the map east of the park, from approximately highway mile 80 to highway mile 315. The Arctic Circle crosses the Dalton Highway at mile 115. Prospect Creek is at mile 150. The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is located in Coldfoot at mile 175. Marion Creek Campground is at mile 180. The community of Wiseman is at mile 189. Atigun Pass is at mile 244. Galbraith Lake Campground is at mile 275. There is a winter use only ice road at mile 150 and Prospect Creek that extends northwest for 20 miles to the town of Bettles/Evansville. 

Communities featured on the map include from west to east Shungnak, Kobuk, Alatna, Allakaket, Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles/Evansville, Prospect Creek, Wiseman and Coldfoot. All communities are outside the park boundary except for Anaktuvuk Pass, which is located on the John River near the northeast corner of the park boundary and is on and surrounded by private native land.

There are two preserve areas located inside the park, one at the southwest corner of the park and the other at the northeast corner of the park. All other land inside the park is wilderness. There are private native lands on and surrounding Anaktuvuk Pass.

The communities of Shungnak and Kobuk are located on the Kobuk River southwest of the park. Alatna and Allakaket are located on the Alatna River directly south of the park. Bettles/Evansville is located on the Koyukuk River near the southeast boundary of the park.

Airstrips are located from west to east at Shungnak, Kobuk, Allakaket, Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles/Evansville, Prospect Creek, and Coldfoot.

Ranger Stations are located from west to east at Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles/Evansville, and Coldfoot.

Map credit: NPS


↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Contacts and More Information

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve 

Fairbanks Administrative Center

Bettles Ranger Station

Arctic Interagency Visitor Center 

Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station

The National Park Service

↑ back to top