Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park is over 7.5 million acres

Gates of the Arctic National Park is the second-largest national Park of America after Wrangell-St. Elias National park. If you want to witness the natural beauty at its best, then this Park is waiting for you. Your adventurous thirst can end here. It will provide you those regions which have no sign of human interruption. So it means that nature will be your only companion, and if you are a nature-lover, then it is a blessing for you. There are lots of things to explore in this Park. 

What The Park Has To Offer

Gates of the Arctic is truly an amazing place

Some of the unique statements about the Gates of the Arctic National Park are as below:

1. Gates of the Arctic National Park is acknowledged as the premier Wilderness Park in the national park system, protecting 8.4 million acres of diverse arctic ecosystems.
2. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve serves as the headwaters for six Wild Rivers that support natural systems and human activities across northern Alaska.
3. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve protects a functioning arctic mountain ecosystem in its entirety and provides a habitat of world importance for naturally occurring plant and animal populations.
4. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve provides visitors with opportunities for solitude and challenging wilderness adventures within a remote and vast arctic landscape.
5. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve protects habitats and resources in consultation with local rural residents to provide subsistence opportunities on lands that have supported traditional cultures and local residents.
6. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve protects a 12,000-year record of human cultural adaptations to high latitude mountain environments and an unbroken tradition of living on the land.

Glaciers, mountains, grassy valleys, Large Rivers and many more things are present in this Park, making it one of the most beautiful and naturefull parks in the world. Its wildlife is diverse, and plant life has its own beauty, which you can explore in the Park. Here in this article, I will cover the main highlights of this Park.


Animal life thrives in Gates of the Arctic

This Park is home to many wildlife animals from small to large. The wilderness of the Park in this modern age is the primary reason behind the satisfying numbers of wild animals in the parks. Some of the notable wild animals of the Park are grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, moose, and wolverines. 

Grizzly Bears
Brown and grizzly bears are classified as the same species even though they have notable differences. Brown bears mostly live on the southern coast of the Park because their favorite spawning salmon is abundant there. The thick coastal vegetation and the milder climate is another reason behind the abundance of brown bears in the southern coast. On the other hand, grizzly bears are mostly live in the central and northern parts of the Park. To minimize the confusion, I can say that grizzly bears are the cousins of brown bears. These bears are larger than the black bear, have a more prominent shoulder hump, less prominent ears, and more extended, straighter claws. Black bears are more streamlined, lacking the hump.

The reason behind the difference in the physical shape is the adaptation to the different environments. Bears have long claws, which they use to dig the roots and to excavate the small mammals. They also use their long claws for climbing trees. Grizzly bears are powerful animals, and you can’t afford any encounter with them, so always keep yourself at a safe distance.

The bears are very adaptable like humans; they consume a wide variety of foods. The common foods include salmon, barriers, grasses, sedges, ground squirrels, carrion, and roots. These bears may be attracted to human camps and homes by improperly stored food and garbage as well as domestic animals. The highly adaptable nature of these bears increases their chances to survive in a time of natural disasters. Grizzly bears are highly solitary in nature, but they often present in the large groups in the highly feeding areas like the spawning streams, whale carcasses. For communication, they have developed a complex language. The highly concentrated feeding areas also provide humans a chance to see the bears. 

Wolves are a member of the family Canidae. Two subspecies of the wolf are present in abundance. Wolfs of the southeast part of the Park tends to be smaller and darker than the wolves of the northern parts. Their color ranges from dark to white and with every shade of grey and tan in between. The one-year adult male wolves weigh from 85 to 115 pounds, and the weight of females wolves is 10 to 15 pounds lighter than the males and realty weigh more than 110 pounds. Wolfs are social animals, and they live in packs. Usually, a pack consists of 6-7 wolves, Including one male and a female with their pubs.

Packs of 30 wolves also exist with more than one female. Every pack of wolves has its own territory in which they live and hunt for food. Wolves are carnivores, and in most of mainland Alaska, moose and caribou are their primary food, with Dall sheep, squirrels, snow-hare, beaver, occasionally birds, and fish as the supplement in the diet. A pack of goals may kill a deer after every few days, but at times they may go several days without any Food during the winter days. As the wolves are opportunistic, so they prefer young, old, and ill animals over large animals—the hunting behavior of the wolves changes with the environment. 

Dall Sheep
Dall sheep are mostly inhabited in the mountain ranges of the Park. Their color is white, and their most notable characteristic is the male sheep’s long curved horns. Horns are also present in the female sheep, but they have smaller and less curved. Dall sheep and mountain goats are sometimes confused, but there are no Dall sheep on the southeast side of the Park. Dall sheep prefer drier parts of the Park.

The diet of the sheep varies from range to range and season to season. In the summer season, grass, which is a primary food supplement, is abundant and heavily consumed with other small plants. But in the winter season, when the food is short, they mainly depend on the dry grass on the ice mountains. These sheep travel miles and less in winter for the search of grass.

Their beautiful white color fur not only protects them from the winter season but also gives them beauty. They look wonderful in the winter season when their natural white color resembles with the color of the ice. Their natural predators are Wolves, and sometimes they are also attacked by the bears. This relationship in the food chain develops a perfect balance in the wildlife diversification of the Park.

Another major highlight in the wildlife of this Park is Moose. Known as moose across North America, but called elk in Europe. Moose can range from golden brown to almost black. This color variation in the moose is depended on the season and the age of the animal. Moose are often easily recognized by their antlers carried only by the males. These bony structures add beauty to the physical shape of the animal and make them more attractive. These bony structures form within the first year and grow every summer after that.

Many hunters use these antlers as their hunting trophy. These antlers reach up to the trophy size when the moose is six years old, and the best size for the trophy is when the animal is 10-12 years old. Moose rarely live more than 16 years. There are eight subspecies of moose recognized, and the Alaska- Yukon race (Alces giags) is the largest. The maximum weight of a moose can 1600 pounds, and the size can reach up to 6 feet. Moose are Herbivores, eating willow, birch, and aspen leaves, and twigs, along with sedges, pondweeds, and grasses.

Photo courtesy of NPS

Plant Life

There are two main vegetation communities: tundra and boreal

Gates of Arctic national park is full of natural beauty, and its plant life increases its beauty. The diverse vegetation of the Park is due to the rivers and the boreal land. It is the best land for small and medium-size plants. These plants not only increase its beauty, but they are also a significant source of food for its will life. Large trees are scarce in this Park. So there are only a few woody tree species are present in the Park. But its beauty totally depends on its thick grasslands and the different plant species that grow in the river lands. In the spring season, when the flowers grow on these plants, the whole Park looks like a treat for the eyes of every nature lover. Its plant life is diverse; I will cover only those plants here which are abundant and only specific to this region of the Earth. 

Black Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)
Crowberry, black crowberry, or, in western Alaska, blackberry is an angiosperm species within the heather Ericaceae with a near circumboreal distribution within the hemisphere. This plant is a low growing and evergreen shrub. Its flowers are tiny and usually not very noticeable. But after all, it is an integral part of the boreal forests of the Park. Many biologists believe that the distribution of the cowberries has occurred due to long-distance migratory birds from one land to the other. 

white spruce
Picea glauca, the Picea glauca, is a specie of spruce native to the northern temperate and boreal forests in North America. Central Alaska is the native land of White spruce. This is one of the few woody trees in the Gates of national Park. Its average height is 15m to 30m. It produces cones, and the shapes of these cones are different in both the male and female. This difference in shape helps in pollination and seed formation. For many migratory birds, this tree is the best place to build their nests because it provides them with hiding and place above from the land.

Moss campion
Silene acaulis, referred to as Silene acaulis or cushion pink, is a small mountain-dwelling wildflower that’s common everywhere in the high arctic and tundra. It is an evergreen flowering plant with a delightful and musky essence. Its white flowers increase the beauty of its grasslands. It is mainly grown near the river lands, and its roots are intermingled in the water and the mud.

Lingon berry
Vaccinium Vitis-idaea (lingonberry, partridgeberry, mountain cranberry, or cowberry) is a short evergreen shrub within the Park. It is famous due to the small red color berries on it, which is used by both the animal and the humans for their food. Its commercial cultivation is undertaken in the US pacific northwest. Red berries have an acidic taste, ripening from late summer to autumn. It is bitter in the early season, but they become sweet if left on the branches through the winter season. In many parts of Alaska, it is also used to color different things. It is also used as a tobacco additive or substitute.

water horsetail
Equisetum fluviatile, the water horsetail or swamp horsetail, is a tracheophyte that commonly grows in dense colonies along freshwater shorelines or in the rivers’ shallow water in the Park. This plant goes erect up to 30-100cm. Its leaves are very small and like scale attached to each joint on the stem. The size of leaves is nearly 5-10nm. The cen- ter of the stem is hollow, nearly up to 80%. It absorbs water and is used by many wild animals in the dry season as a source of water-full food.

Photo courtesy of NPS

Things To Do

The best things to do at Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of Arctic national park has a lot of amazing things in his hands to provide you. You can enjoy the beauty and wilderness of nature in the Park in the true sense. It is a blessing for any person who wants to move away from the cities’ dull and fast-moving life for some days. According to some studies, this Park is the only largest wild Park in the world. You will amaze by its vastness and natural beauty. Its wildlife and plant life not only diversify its elegance but also increase the interaction of humans with the wild. If you are a person who wants just to spend a few days and not want to hike and backpack, then don’t worry. It has much other adventurous waiting for you. You can see the beauty of the Park from the flightseeing trips.

Day-trips or overnight camp out at remote locations. If you are the second type of person who has come here for two to three weeks, then hiking and backpacking are a must-to-do thing for you. You can make it more adventurous by the survival trips in which you have to live for some days in the pure wilderness based on just your survival skills and the gadgets which you bring with you. You don’t need to be bear grills to enjoy this adventurous trip. The local guides will provide you with the essential things and guidance. Here I will describe some things in detail which you can do in the Gates of arctic national Park.

Backpacking and Hiking
Exploration and discovery come with new stories, which can become a lifetime source of enjoyment. Backpacking and hiking in the Park will provide you a whole new experience of the wild, a world with very little or no human interaction. A world that is full of natural beauty. A world full of rivers floating in between the valleys, and how You can forget the sunrise and fall in the vast wilderness. The image you are hiking with your friends, and your camp is present on the top of a mountain, tell me who much beautiful it will be, sunrise and fall from that point. It will be a real and pure scene of nature. One thing which makes this Park separate from the other national parks is that it has no human-made road and trails. Only the trails made due to the passing of animals are present. According to the Park officials, if you want to hike and backpack in the Park, then your team members should be less than ten because, in a large group, you will not enjoy the wilderness offered by the Park. You should have basic survival skills, like how to pass rivers and how to use those things provided by the wild to live. Keep a compass needle and a good map in your bag. You can also use a GPS unit if you have access. There are no roads to follow in the Park; only trails made by the animals called game trials are present; you can follow them. In this way, every person will feel his own personal experience in the Park.

If you are a bird hunter, then the summer season in the Park can be a blessing for you. Due to endless summer light, a large number of territory birds come into the Park. Over atleast thirty years, more than 157 kinds of birds are observed in the Park. Aquatic birds, raptors, songbirds, and many others can be observed in the Park. This Park provides birds the best type of environment to grow their numbers. According to the experienced hunters, morning and evening time is best for birding. You should also try your luck at this time. Nearly half of the birds recorded in gates of the Arctic live and nest in aquatic habitats. Birding can be an excellent addition to your to-do list at the gates of arctic national Park.

As I already mention that in the Park there is minimal human interruption is present, so there are no designed campsites present in the Park. You have to choose your campsite. Camping is mostly connected with other recreational activities like backpacking and hiking. If you want to camp in the arctic Park, then you should be well prepared and mentally ready for any kind of mishappening. In the end, you are camping in the wilderness.

You can choose a solid land for your camp which should be well above from the water level of the rivers because in the park water level increases very rapidly. The Park’s vegetation is very fragile, so you should also care about it, Not destroy the soft grass by camping on it, Find a clear and solid piece of land for the camp and move your camp after every 2-3 days to erase your living signs. Don’t forget that you are present in the bear country so keep all the possibilities in your mind before you set up your cap. Many recommendations are present to save yourself from the bears and to enjoy the wilderness of the Park to its full extent: o Recommendations for camping:

Locate your cooking/eating area 100 yards away from the sleeping area. Never keep your food, trash, petroleum, and any other odorous item (toothpaste, soap, lotions, and creams) with you during sleeping. The logic behind this is that bears can come to your campsite, and they can attack you if you are sleeping with the food, So it is recommended to stash all your odorous and food items away from you. 

Keep in mind that a minimal number of trees are present in the Park, Not depend on the tress wood for the fire, Come here with your own gas or propane stoves. Also, keep your propane and gas stove away from your sleeping site. 

Find a hard and dry land to set up your sleeping cap. It is best to camp on durable surfaces. Gravel bars are the best choice to use as a campsite because it has fewer mosquito and is often present near the rivers, So in case you run out of water, you can fill up your bottles from the river. Keep all these recommendations in your mind before making a plan to camp in the gates of arctic national Park. Good planning can make your trip more enjoyable and adventurous.

Wild and Scenic Rivers:
The Park’s rivers come from the large glacial valleys towards the sweeping vistas and increase the beauty of the Park. They are known as the arteries and veins of the Park’s beauty.

These rivers are bylines for both humans and wildlife. They not only increase the beauty of the Park, but they are also crucial for the diversification of the wildlife in the Park. Every fantastic and adventurous thing which you can imagine doing in a river can do in this Park. It can be rafting, boating, and bath in the fresh and the purest water on planet earth.

These rivers support the fantastic summer explosion of summer life. They will take you a step more near to nature and its beauty. The summer season is the best time to enjoy the real adventures which parks can present you. The number one thing to do is boating; many local vendors can provide you with boats and their essentials on rent. You can enjoy rafting and fishing at the same time. Boasting can also become an excellent addition to your camping plan.

Mostly the water level is class 1 or class 2, but in the full summer season, it can go up to class 4. The highest water level is in May or June. But there are also some drawbacks to the rivers of the National Park. The river’s water level can suddenly increase, and you have no time to move your campsite away from the water. So always keep in mind these happenings which can disturb your camping trip.

The six wild and Scenic rivers of Gates of the Artic
I. The Altna River
II. John river
III. Kobuk River
IV. Noatak river
V. North fork Koyukuk River
VI. Tinayguk River

Hunting is another thing that you can add to your bucket list while planning the trip to the gates of arctic National Park; remember that only permitted hunting is allowed in the Gates of Arctic national preserve, not in the Gates of Arctic national park. For the sport hunting and trapping, you should have all the legal documents and permissions. In the preserve, the most famous hunting is bird hunting during the season of bird migration when they come here for breeding and increase their number. Trophy hunting is only allowed in some exceptional cases when you will have permission from the National Park Service. Remember that you have to fulfill all the legalities other vises you can end up in fine.

Hunting is only allowed for the small mammals and birds; endangered species can’t be hunted. Subsistence hunting: In 1980 when the Park was created, Congress protected the traditional subsistence hunting rights of the local rural residents. As these local people depend on the hunting of the birds and fish for food, So it is essential to respect their rights. You can check the hunting maps, rites, and other details on the websites of the National park service and State of Alaska Hunting Regulations.

Photo courtesy of NPS

Park History

How Gates of the Arctic became a National Park

The history of this Park is all started with the nomadic people live in the brooks region for as many as 12,500 years; their primary food resources were caribou and other wildlife. Many signs of their occupation and daily life are observed in the remaining sites. Modern history is started from the Nuamiut; these people were appeared about 1200AD at the coast and spread across the brooks region. Most of the people living in the brooks region are belong to this family. Alaska was never touched from its interior before the 19th century. All people come here on its coastal areas, and they move back due to the extreme heat or its wilderness.

A few people make it their real home. The biggest reason behind the exploration of interior Alaska and this Park is the discovery of gold in Klondike. This discovery of the precious metals attracts the prospectors and explorers. These explorers build their camps here to explore this region, and they also started few mining operations s in the 20th century, but their success ratio to find the gold was not so much. But their part in the exploration of interior Alaska, mainly the Gats of Arctic national park, is very important and worthy to note here. Name of the Park: The story of the name of this Park is also interesting. In 1929, when explorer Bob Marshall explored the north fork of the Koyukuk river, he encountered two mountains (Frigid Crags and Boreal mountain), one on each side of the river.

He names this the gates of the arctic after impressing from these mountains and river in between them. He also wrote books on this region in 1930. Proposals for the Park: Proposals for the establishment of the National Park in this area were first come in the 1960s; in 1968 National Park Service make a survey and recommend the establishment of a National Park of a 4100,000 acre in the area. That same year Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall recommended to President Lyndon B. Johnson to use his Antiquities Act to establish parks in the brooks region and in other locations of Alaska, But President declined. In the 1970s, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) proclaimed the establishment of a national park in the brooks region to stop the disposition of the natural land by the federal government.

A series of bills were considered to deal with the conversation of land in Alaska. On December 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter used the Antiquities Act to proclaim the many of proposals for the creation of a National Park and Preserve in Alaska. In 1980 Congress passed the ANCSA, and the moment became the Gates of National Park and preserve on December 2, 1980. The establishment of this Park helps to preserve the natural beauty of Alaska and especially the Brooks region for future generations. It is the second biggest National Park of America. So its creation defiantly helps the wildlife and the plant life to thrive in their natural habitat.

Photo courtesy of NPS

Formation Of The Park

How Gates of the Arctic Was Formed

Rocks of the Park:
According to the researches, the mountains of this region of Alaska are formed when the large sections of the Earth Crust called terrains were transported here in the process of plate tectonics. The tectonic plates of this region collide with each other millions of years ago, and the mountains emerge in this region. These terrain layers also contain the living organisms’ fossils from throughout the history of Earth, and Some are as old as 400 million years ago. These fossils prove that this region of the Earth was an essential part of when life emerges on this planet. These mountains ranges are now an important part of the formation of northern Alaska. There are large valleys in between them, and rivers cross them coming from the glaciers.

The tectonic activity is not the only reason behind the formation of rocks and mountain ranges in the Gates of Arctic National park. Many of the peaks like the Arrigetch Peaks were formed due to the magma of the Earth’s inner surface, which comes out when the tectonic plates collide with each other. The magma comes out and cools down as time passed. Erosion of the rocks was also occurred when the magma granite comes out due to the Earth’s forces.

The Endicott Group:
Most of the Park’s surface is underlain by the Endicott, a sedimentary rock type formed on the ocean floor millions of years ago. This is the most observable rock group in the Park Because most of the park surface is covered by it. Glaciation: The main factor behind the formation of the brooks region’s landscape is glaciation, Which occurred in the last ice age. In this age, the Brooks Range was totally covered with ice, unlike the interior Alaska, which was ice-free.

The Glaciers shapes the mountains, valleys and melt into various lakes. This Glaciation also helps in the formation of the rigged mountains. These all-natural processes and rocks are all notable in the formation of the Park’s landscapes. The end result of these all processes is a beautiful and natural park, a paradise for both plant and wild life to nourish and increase the Park’s beauty with their colors and participation in the living chain.

The above geological map of the Park shows the geological history of the gates of the arctic national Park. The starred peaks in the amp are Arrigetch peaks, which are made up of granite, a type of igneous rock. This peak is different from the schist belt, which surrounds the peaks and is a type of metamorphic rock.

Photo courtesy of NPS

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