Bettles Lodge, Bettles, Alaska
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The History of Bettles

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 location.


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 history, Noel 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.

jeanDuring 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. Manyarrigetch 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.

auroraAs 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 machine tours.

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