Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

April 20 to April 28 is National Park Week, and on April 20, 2024, the National Park Service is waiving park entrance fees to kick off the celebration. Today we’re looking at the northernmost national park in the United States—the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve in Alaska. 

Established in 1980, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve includes 8.5 million acres of the Alaska’s diverse ecosystems. Situated in the Endicott Mountains of the Brooks Range, the park is located completely within the Arctic Circle. 

With no roads or trails into the park, anyone who wants to visit must fly or hike in. There are also no amenities or cell service, and the National Park Service advises, “Visitors must be self-reliant and able to execute self-extraction and communication, should an emergency situation arise.”

Its remoteness is probably why it’s also the least-visited park in the National Park system. 

In the 1960s, the National Park Service began proposing several new national parks in Alaska, including a park in the Brooks Range. Legislation proposing these additional parks was introduced into Congress throughout the 1970s; however, Congress could not agree to a legislative solution, and a number of bills addressing the land failed to be enacted.

In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate much of the proposed new parklands in Alaska as national monuments, including Gates of the Arctic National Monument. Two years later, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which added over 100 million acres of protected land in Alaska.

The legislation also redesignated Gates of the Arctic as a National Park and Preserve.

The act stated that the park shall be managed for the following purposes:

  • To maintain the wild and undeveloped character of the area, including opportunities for visitors to experience solitude, and the natural environmental integrity and scenic beauty of the mountains, forelands, rivers, lakes, and other natural features;
  • to provide continued opportunities, including reasonable access, for mountain climbing, mountaineering, and other wilderness recreational activities;
  • and to protect habitat for and the populations of, fish and wildlife, including, but not limited to, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall’s sheep, moose, wolves, and raptorial birds.
  • Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the park, where such uses are traditional, in accordance with the provisions of title VIII.

Today, you can visit Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and go hiking, birding, camping, fishing, or just take in the beauty of the Alaskan landscape.

The National Archives has a large photo collection from NPS’s Alaska Task Force in the 1970s. It includes many photographs of Gates of the Arctic as well as other national parks in Alaska. We’ve digitized them as part of a larger project to make the holdings from NARA’s former Pacific Alaska Region more broadly available to the public.

Learn more about the Alaska digitization project on the National Archives at Seattle’s website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *