Noatak National Preserve
Far above the Arctic Circle and almost completely enclosed by the Baird and De Long mountains of the Brooks Range, the Noatak National Preserve extends more than 6.6 million acres protecting the largest untouched mountain-ringed river basin in America. Located 16 miles northeast of Kotzebue, the preserve along with the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve contains almost the entire watershed of the Noatak River. In this transition zone, the northern coniferous forest thins out and gradually gives way to the tundra that stretches northward to the Beaufort Sea. The bulk of this land, 5.8 million acres, is designated wilderness.
The 396-mile-long Noatak River is contained within this broad and gently sloping valley, which stretches more than 150 miles east to west. The river, from its source in Gates of the Arctic National Park to its confluence with the Kelly River in Noatak National Preserve, is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The Noatak River passes through six regions on its way to the sea: headwaters at the base of Igikpal Mountain; the great Noatak Basin with its rounded mountains and plentiful wildlife; the 65-mile-long Grand Canyon of the Noatak and the much steeper, 7-mile Noatak Canyon; plains dotted with spruce, balsam and poplar; the rolling Igichuk Hills; and finally the flat coastal delta.
The terrain along much of the Noatak River is vast and open, providing ample opportunities for viewing the preserve's wildlife. The Western Arctic caribou herd, numbering approximately 490,000 migrates through the broad expanse of the preserve. Other large mammals include brown bears, moose, wolves, lynx and Dall sheep. The Noatak River offers excellent fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Opportunities for wilderness backpacking and photography are plentiful.