Last updated: July 7, 2016
Welcome to the inaugural post of Notes from 800 Feet! Four of your national parks – Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve – are located in the Northwest Arctic Borough of Alaska, an area about the size of Kentucky. There are no roads connected the 11 villages in the borough to each other, nor are there any roads into the national parks. Instead, the best way to get around is by plane. From above, you can start to understand the magnitude and grandeur of this space, as well as the isolation. In Notes from 800 Feet, we hope to give you a bird's-eye view of the Western Arctic National Parklands and Northwest Alaska.
Our first entry comes from Tyler Teuscher, our Educational Specialist. On September 26, Ranger Tyler flew from Kotzebue to Shungnak to spend a week presenting programs in the local schools. Shungnak is a small village of about 250 people located on the banks of the Kobuk River, southeast of Kobuk Valley National Park.
In Kotzebue, the skies are clear, but 100 miles up the Kobuk River, it's cloudy. The village of Shungnak and the surrounding area have about a foot of snow on the ground. The Kobuk River has started to freeze up near Shungnak, and all the sloughs are frozen, but they aren't thick enough to travel on yet.
Every fall, the Northwest Arctic Caribou Herd – about 250,000 animals – migrate 600 miles from their calving grounds north of the Brooks Range to their wintering grounds on the Seward Peninsula. As this giant herd moves south across the landscape, they leave deep trails etched onto the tundra that are visible long after the caribou themselves have moved on. Ranger Tyler could see clear signs of the caribous’ passage through Kobuk Valley National Park, even though the herd itself had passed through.
Thanks for joining Ranger Tyler on his flight to Shungnak and tune in next time to see what our park pilots, staff and researchers see on their next flights.