Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

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Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Northern Alaska

The Arrigetch Peaks are found in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which is in the Brooks Range.

© Alaska Division of Tourism

The Arrigetch Peaks are found in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which is in the Brooks Range.

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Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, is seen just before sunset on a late March flightseeing trip. The south peak, right, is the summit at 20,320 feet; the north peak stands 19,470 feet high. Climbing season on the big mountain is May through July.

Alaska can be divided into five broad regions.

Northern Alaska

The Arrigetch Peaks are found in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which is in the Brooks Range.

In this area above the Arctic Circle people depend on the land and its many resources.

Southeast Alaska

The waterfront at Ketchikan.

See America's northernmost rain forest or a humpback whale.

Western Alaska

A recreational boat follows the channel markers leading into Iliuliuk Harbor near Unalaska's Church of the Holy Ascension. Unalaska and its companion settlement, Dutch Harbor, are in the Aleutian Islands.

This area is home to the country's busiest fishing port.

The Interior

The Alaska Range is the Interior's defining feature. In Denali National Park, Wonder Lake reflects Mount McKinley reflects at sunset.

This vast area is alive with gold mining and plenty of outdoor activities.

South east

Southcentral Alaska has the state's largest city, Anchorage, but it also has scenic wonders such as Passage Canal at Whittier.

Also known as Alaska's Panhandle, the area is filled with forests, glaciers and hiking trails.

Arctic region comes alive in summer as birds return

Northern Alaska is Arctic Alaska, a remote land of extremes, where traditional people follow ancient calendars and where national politics plays a prominent role.

This area above the Arctic Circle -- without large summer runs of salmon and facing months of twilight and bitter cold every winter -- is alive in the summer with millions of migratory waterfowl.

Wildlife

The Native population has depended since time immemorial on the wildlife and vegetation of the Northern region.

Caribou, whales and birds enabled -- and still do, in many cases -- the subsistence lifestyle to provide food and clothing.

Other animals in the region include polar, black and brown bears; wolves; musk oxen; small mammals such as beavers and foxes; and huge flocks of migratory swans, geese, ducks and shorebirds from not only North America but also from the other continents.

Oil

The oil fields around Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska provide about 20 percent of the United States' consumption and, through royalties, a great share of Alaska's state budget. The associated construction, pipeline and transportation industries are a bulwark of the state and regional economy.

The oil companies' desire to explore for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to the east of the established oil fields, has focused attention on the refuge's caribou herd and on the Gwich'in people, who depend on the caribou, as well as on the issues of what a refuge should protect and on the nation's demand for oil. But even as the drilling issue makes its way through the political corridors, tourism in the refuge has increased.

On the western side of Arctic Alaska, a mine north of Kotzebue is the nation's largest provider of zinc. The central Brooks Range has some gold mines, a remnant of a rush in the early 20th century.

Northern parks and refuges

Northern Alaska features Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley national parks, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, a national preserve and several national wild rivers. In addition to holding all of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the North contains part of another national preserve and two refuges relied on by migratory birds.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge attracts hundreds of visitors a year for wildlife viewing and for rafting trips down its scenic rivers. The refuge is often reached by small plane from Fairbanks.

Northwestern Alaska is thought to be where the first people crossed the Bering Land Bridge into North America. Archaeological digs have found material dating 10,000 and more years old.

Population and villages

The population of the North Slope and Northwest Alaska boroughs, which cover almost all of Arctic Alaska, is 10,500.

Barrow, population 4,434, and Kotzebue, 3,107, are the region's largest cities in a region where the population is mostly Inupiat Eskimo. Barrow is the northernmost community in North America.

Attractions

The Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow is affiliated with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in New Bedford, Mass., recognizing the contributions of Alaska Natives to the history of whaling. Also in Barrow, travelers may visit the Wiley Post-Will Rogers memorial near the site where the pilot and humorist died in a plane crash in 1935.

In Kotzebue, visitors go to the Innaigvik Education and Information Center to learn more about Kotzebue and nearby wild lands. Locally led tours take the culturally curious out of town.

Outdoors

Fishing for sheefish, pike and other species is good in some lakes and rivers. The federal land is open country for hikers and wildlife watchers.

Hunters seek caribou, bears and birds, and some crews from some coastal villages harvest bowhead whales.

Because of the lack of roads, travel out of town is by boat or small plane.

Transportation

In the summer, most travel is done by air. Commercial airlines link Anchorage and Fairbanks with Barrow, Kotzebue and Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse) and most villages. Air taxis can be hired for trips into refuges, parks and other isolated areas.

The Northern region has only one state highway, the Dalton, which runs south from the oil fields to join the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks. It is used mostly by oil-field supply trucks and tourists. Roads often exist around towns and villages for local traffic.

All-terrain vehicles and snowmachines are frequently used in rural Alaska. Dogsleds are used occasionally.

Lodging

Lodging is available in several locations, including Barrow, Kotzebue, Deadhorse, Coldfoot and Kaktovik.

Geography, geology and climate

Summer in Northern Alaska is a time of sunshine. The longest day is the one between sunrise on May 10 and sunset on August 2. In the winter, the sun is down from Nov. 18 to January 24.

The Barrow temperature averages 40 degrees F in the summer. During the year, it swings between -56 and 78 F. The daily minimum temperature is below freezing 324 days of the year.

The range also defines climatic patterns.

The northern strip is noticeably colder and drier than the part south of the range. Barrow's average temperature range in January is minus 8 to minus 20, and 33 to 45 in July. Fort Yukon, just north of the Arctic Circle, is slightly colder in winter but it has an average July range of 51 to 72. Fort Yukon also sports the state record for high temperature, 100 degrees.

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