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Anaktuvuk Pass

Anaktuvuk Pass – Pronounced an-ack-TOO-vick, Anaktuvuk Pass translates to “the place of Caribou droppings” or “the place where dung is found” in the Nunamiut language.

Location/Coordinates: Anaktuvuk Pass is situated on the continental divide in northern Alaska, between the Anaktuvuk River and the John River in the central Brooks Range. It lies within the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and is part of the North Slope Borough. Positioned north of the Arctic Circle at about 110 miles, Anaktuvuk Pass is approximately 250 miles southwest of Fairbanks and a similar distance southeast of Barrow.

Coordinates: 68.1433° N, 151.7329° W

Population/Elevation: With just over 300 residents, Anaktuvuk Pass is located at an elevation of just over 2,000 feet above sea level.

Description: Anaktuvuk Pass is a Nunamiut Eskimo community that relies on subsistence living. The residents depend on hunting and trapping for income, either through selling skins, guiding hunters, or crafting traditional Caribou skin masks or clothing.

What to do there: Encompassed by the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, which spans 8.4 million acres, the area includes the national park, two national preserves, six Wild and Scenic Rivers, and two National Natural Landmarks. The region is characterized by a maze of glaciated valleys and rugged mountains, crossed by wild rivers and covered with boreal forest and Arctic tundra. The land is inhabited by moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly and black bears.

The Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve is accessible by walking from the Anaktuvuk Pass airfield. Commercial air service is also available. The park and preserve are open year-round, with information available at the Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station. Due to the extreme Arctic weather, even during the summer season, visitors should allow plenty of extra time for arrival and departure, as well as bring additional food and clothing.

A year-round museum in Anaktuvuk Pass focuses on the early natural and cultural history of the area, featuring Nunamiut clothing and hunting implements.

History: Anaktuvuk Pass is the last remaining settlement of the Nunamiut people. In 1926-27, the Nunamiut people dispersed to other parts of Alaska when caribou became scarce, and cultural changes from the influences of Western civilization played a role as well. In the late 1930s, several Nunamiut families returned to the mountains at Killik River and Chandler Lake, then moved to Anaktuvuk Pass. Other Nunamiut people began to return to Anaktuvuk Pass, and it became a community, incorporated in 1959.

How to get there: Accessible only by air, Anaktuvuk Pass has an airport that accommodates chartered flights from Fairbanks or Barrow, bringing in people and cargo.

Facilities: Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, does not cater to visitors with lodging options, but camping may be possible.

RV info: There are no RV facilities in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska.

Climate: Anaktuvuk Pass experiences an Arctic climate, with long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The average annual temperature is around 10°F (-12°C), and the temperature can drop to as low as -50°F (-45°C) during the winter months. Snow can fall anytime from September to June, and the area experiences 24 hours of daylight during the summer months, known as the “midnight sun,” while in winter, the sun barely rises above the horizon.

Wildlife: The region surrounding Anaktuvuk Pass is home to diverse wildlife, including migratory birds, wolverines, foxes, Arctic hares, and ground squirrels. The area is an excellent location for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, who can capture stunning images of the Arctic tundra and its inhabitants.

Outdoor Activities: Due to its remote location and pristine environment, Anaktuvuk Pass offers a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, backpacking, camping, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Visitors can also experience dog sledding or snowmobiling during the winter months.

Cultural Experiences: Visitors to Anaktuvuk Pass can immerse themselves in the Nunamiut Eskimo culture by participating in community events, learning about traditional hunting and trapping techniques, and exploring the local arts and crafts. Local artisans are known for creating beautiful caribou skin masks, clothing, and other traditional items that showcase their unique heritage.

Safety and Precautions: Due to the remoteness and harsh climate of Anaktuvuk Pass, it is essential to take safety precautions when visiting. Travelers should be well-prepared with appropriate clothing, carry extra food and water, and have a communication plan in place. It is also important to be aware of wildlife, such as bears, and follow proper safety guidelines to minimize risks.

Visitor Guidelines: As Anaktuvuk Pass is a small community with limited facilities, it is important for visitors to respect the local customs and traditions. This includes minimizing waste and litter, respecting private property, and being mindful of noise levels. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to support the local economy by purchasing locally-made products and using local services when possible.

In summary, Anaktuvuk Pass is a unique and remote destination that offers a glimpse into the traditional way of life of the Nunamiut Eskimo people. With its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and abundant wildlife, it presents a truly unforgettable experience for adventurous travelers who are prepared to face the challenges of the Arctic environment.

Northern Lights: One of the most captivating attractions of Anaktuvuk Pass and the surrounding Arctic region is the chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. This breathtaking natural light display is a result of charged particles from the sun colliding with Earth’s atmosphere, creating vibrant, dancing lights that fill the night sky. For the best opportunity to view the Northern Lights in Anaktuvuk Pass, plan your visit during the winter months, typically from late September to early April. During this period, the extended hours of darkness provide optimal viewing conditions. Be prepared for cold temperatures and consider hiring a local guide, who can help you find the best spots for aurora watching and lend valuable expertise on photographing the phenomenon.

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve: Anaktuvuk Pass is situated within the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, the northernmost national park in the United States. This vast park encompasses the Brooks Range, a collection of glaciated valleys and rugged mountains that form a natural divide between the Arctic coastal plain and the boreal forest to the south. The park’s remote wilderness offers unparalleled opportunities for solitude, adventure, and exploration. With no roads or established trails, visitors to the park can experience true wilderness as they navigate its expansive landscape. To make the most of your visit, consider engaging a local guide or outfitter to help plan your trip, provide essential gear, and ensure a safe, memorable experience.

Traditional Nunamiut Lifestyle: The Nunamiut people maintain a deep connection to the land and its resources, relying on traditional subsistence practices for their survival. Hunting and fishing are integral activities for the community, with caribou, moose, and fish serving as staples of the Nunamiut diet. Visitors may have the opportunity to learn about and participate in these practices, gaining insight into traditional food processing techniques, such as smoking, drying, and fermenting. By engaging with the local community, visitors can develop a deeper understanding of the Nunamiut way of life and the vital connection between people and the environment.

Archeological Sites: The region surrounding Anaktuvuk Pass boasts a rich archeological heritage, with numerous sites providing evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years. Researchers have uncovered tools, dwelling structures, and other artifacts that offer a glimpse into the lives of the ancient people who once inhabited this remote region. For visitors interested in archeology, guided tours of these sites can provide a unique opportunity to learn about the history of human occupation in the Arctic and the challenges faced by early inhabitants.

Festivals and Community Events: To foster a sense of community and celebrate their heritage, the people of Anaktuvuk Pass host various festivals and events throughout the year. These vibrant gatherings often feature traditional games, dancing, music, and storytelling, providing an excellent opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture and learn more about the Nunamiut way of life. Plan your visit to coincide with these events to enjoy a truly authentic cultural experience.

Conservation Efforts: The delicate Arctic ecosystem in Anaktuvuk Pass and the surrounding region demands diligent conservation efforts. The Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve is dedicated to preserving both the natural environment and the cultural heritage of the Nunamiut people. As a visitor, it is essential to follow Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife, and support local conservation initiatives. This includes minimizing waste and litter, respecting private property, and being mindful of noise levels. By adhering to these guidelines, visitors can help protect the pristine Arctic environment for future generations to enjoy.