Celebrating & Preserving Wilderness

The year 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964. This historic act gives legal protection to designated wilderness areas and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is one of the wildest and most pristine of those protected places. Motivated by the desire to celebrate wilderness values during this 50th anniversary year and also by the need to clean up some of the barrels left from the era of oil and gas exploration, park rangers from Gates of the Arctic conducted a winter patrol into one of the least visited areas of the park.

Winter was chosen as the best time to mount this patrol, as there is less impact on the fragile tundra during winter and little danger of damaging any of the many archaeology sites scattered across the tundra. Since wilderness values call for use of minimum tools and protection of the natural soundscape, it was logical to choose dog sled teams, a traditional form of travel, as the “minimum tool” to retrieve these barrels.

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Denali National Park and Preserve also has a long tradition of using dog sleds in wilderness areas and will partner with rangers from Gates of the Arctic. A team of two snow machines supported three dogsled teams by breaking trail and caching supplies. The snow machines stopped at the wilderness boundary and let the dog teams and rangers shine at what they do best, quietly and competently performing the tasks for which they were trained and love. Once the barrels were loaded on the sleds, the dogs pulled them into Anaktuvuk Pass for disposal.

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “The Arctic has a call that is compelling. The distant mountains [of the Brooks Range in Alaska] make one want to go on and on over the next ridge and over the one beyond. The call is that of a wilderness known only to a few...”


This outstanding wilderness area belongs to all the people of the United States. Though perhaps only a few will ever visit it, all can draw inspiration from the values it preserves. We invite you to follow the story of this winter wilderness patrol and connect with your wild heritage during the year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of a wild, wild law.

Read the stories from the wilderness:
Gates of the Arctic Ranger Laurie: Of Dogs & Wilderness
Denali Ranger Jen: Before the Patrol
Denali Ranger Jen: After the Patrol

Let the call of the Arctic stir the wild within you!

Last updated: July 10, 2020

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