Featured National Park: Gates of the Arctic

0 Comments 25 April 2012

The Gates of the Arctic National Park is mammoth. It covers eight million contiguous acres and is by far the northern most national park in the U.S. There are no roads in this national park. No visitors center and, for all intents and purposes, is fairly unwelcoming to the common national parks weekend visitor. The preservation of this land is focused on both the rich natural resources found beneath the Brooks Range Mountains but also, and more specifically, to preserve a way of life that had been going on for thousands of lands.

The people in the Koyukuk region are direct descendants from the early nomads that crossed the Bering Strait from Eurasia which eventually populated the Americas. There way of life is literally a model on sustainable uses of natural resources by humans. The Inupiat people are also known to have an unorthodox approach to the common barroom game darts where they throw underhand and backwards and by all accounts are ‘dead on balls accurate’.

The Noatak basin is internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve. Under this United Nations scientific program the area’s ecological and genetic components are monitored to establish baseline data for measuring changes in other ecosystems worldwide. Its like having a fresh new white Hanes T to judge how cross your normal under shirts are getting.

The early inspiration for the creation of a vast northern national park can be traced back to a U.S. Forest Service forester named Bob Marshall, who arrived in Alaska in 1929 looking for what he called “blank spaces on maps and a few places where my goddam wife will leave me alone.” At this point in his illustrious career Marshall was already a prominent wilderness advocate. His quest brought him to the Koyukuk region in Alaska’s Brooks Range where he buddied up to the local residents.Marshall spent the next 4 years exploring the region, mapping unchartered territory and trying to best a local named Earl in darts. Marshall is responsible for naming the twin adjacent twin peaks along the North Fork of the Koyukuk the “Gates of the Arctic”

Well, he never beat Earl but his writing did inspire later nature enthusiasts to push for the Gates of the Arctic to become a national park. After WWII there was further development and – for lack of a better term – pillaging of the natural resources of the area. Many conservationists from around the country combined forces with a grassroots campaign in Alaska and began applying whatever pressure they could.

It took another 30+ years but finally by 1978 Jimmy “Jaunts” Carter used his authority to designate these areas as national monuments.


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