Bettles, located 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle in one of last true pristine wilderness areas in the
world, is known as the "jumping off" point for adventures into the Brooks Range, Gates of the
Arctic National Park & Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, and Kobuk Valley National Park.
Bettles was named after Gordon Bettles, who founded Bettles in 1898 during the last great gold rush in
Alaska. Gordon, who had been a newspaper writer like his friend Jack
London the famous author, established a trading post at the junction of
the John River and the Koyukuk River. Large steam powered paddle boats
brought miner's and supplies into the region traveling up the Yukon and
Koyukuk rivers to Bettles where supplies and miners were transferred to horse drawn barges for the last
100 miles travel to the gold fields located on the middle fork of the
Koyukuk river. As the gold rush came to an end, and aircraft replaced
the riverboat as the main mode of transportation, the community
migrated to the airstrip built up river 6 miles from the original
The first building in New Bettles was was a lodge
for the many travelers into the area constructed by Wien Airlines
. Wien airlines was established by the most famous bush pilot in Alaska
Wien. This historic Lodge was the first of several Wien Lodges
around the state and is on the National Historic Register. The Koyukuk River on which Bettles is located,
was the traditional dividing line between the Inupiak Eskimos and the
Athabaskan Indians. Located with Bettles is the Native Community of
Evansville which is unique by being both an Indian and Eskimo Village.
The Native Community continues to live the subsistent life style of
their ancestors gathering local berries and harvesting fish from the
Koyukuk in the summer months. During the fall locals from both Bettles
and Evansville gather their yearly meat supply by hunting moose and
caribou. Skins from these animals are used to make various clothing and
native arts. During the winter season, trapping of small fur bearing
animals is done, with the furs either being sold "raw" or made into
hats, gloves, and other clothing. Native crafts are available for
purchase at the lodge.
During the 1970's recognizing the uniqueness of
the Brooks Range, the United States Congress set aside approx.
8½ million acres of wilderness designated as the Gates of the
Arctic National Park and Preserve. Named after the famous naturalist
Robert Marshall, The Gates of the Arctic National Park, is five times
larger than Yellowstone and encompasses a ecosystem that is unique to
the world. So unique is the area, much of it has been designated a
World Ecological Zone. Located within the boundaries of the park are
the Arrigetch Peaks which are a spectacular display of granite peaks.
Arrigetch meaning 'out stretched hands" in Athabaskan, is a popular
location for hikers and offers spectacular flight seeing opportunities.
During the summer months when there is 24 hours
of daylight and the temperatures go as high as the nineties and average
70 degrees f. Many summer adventurers visit the Brooks Range and Gates of
the Arctic. There are no roads in the park, and the only access provide
by aircraft. Bettles Lodge and Air Service provides air travel into the
park utilizing both wheel and float equipped aircraft. There are five
designated "wild and scenic" rivers in the Gates of the Arctic. Many of
the rivers are used by floaters to travel through the park and allows
them a spectacular opportunity to view some of the varied wildlife and
scenery the park has to offer. Northern portions of the park offer a
treeless alpine environment where 2 foot willows may be 50 years old.
The Arctic Tundra offers a special beauty all in its own with
spectacular wildflowers and many animals. The southern portion of the
park is covered by a taiga forest of spruce and birch. Both areas offer
a fantastic opportunity to view breathtaking scenery in the farthest
most mountain range in the world.
Large mammals such as Dahl Sheep, Grizzly Bear,
Black Bear, Moose, and Caribou are seen on these adventures. Smaller
mammals such as Arctic Wolves, Fox, Wolverine, Lynx, and Martin are
also seen during visits to the Park. During the fall months as winter
approaches, the Western
Arctic Caribou heard migrates through the park from it's summer
calving ground on the North Slope of Alaska to their wintering grounds
on the southern side of the Brooks Range. This heard which has approx.
500,000 animals offers fall travelers to the park a unique opportunity
to see hundreds or thousands of these animals as they move south. Many
times viewers get the opportunity to see the predators such as wolves
and bears that depend on this herd for survival as they follow the
caribou in it's travels south.
Bird life expounds in the Brooks Range as many
migratory birds travel to the Arctic for their summer nesting grounds.
Larger waterfowl such as Trumpeter Swans, Sand hill Cranes, Canadian
Geese can be seen nesting in the Brooks Range. Smaller bird life such
as the Arctic Tern which migrates each year from the tip of Chili to
the Arctic can also be seen.
As winter sets
in on the Arctic the days become shorter and the wildlife settles in
for winter with the bears going into hibernation and the migratory
birds heading south. Classified as an Arctic Desert, the annual
snowfall averages about 6 feet over the coarse of the winter. Annual
Average precipitation is approx. 12 inches. The average temperature
during the period from Dec through March is minus 5 degrees F. Bettles
is located in the center of the Aurora Zone that crosses Alaska and
with an average of only 10 cloudy days a month, offers an excellent
opportunity to view the Northern Lights. The University of
Alaska has a monitoring station at Bettles for Aurora studies. The
main modes of overland transportation now become the snow machine and
dog sled. Winter adventurers have the opportunity to experience the
quiet beauty of the winter arctic while viewing the Northern Lights.
Many choose to add to their winter experience by dog sledding or snow