Landing in the Backcountry

July 26, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Last week, rangers Cait and Julia flew to the Nakolik strip on the southern border of Noatak National Preserve. They performed a backcountry inventory on the site and cleaned up debris left by previous visitors as well as collecting footage for an upcoming video project.

It was a chilly, misty morning, the sort of weather I associate with summer in the Arctic or late fall in in the Lower 48. The clouds hung low in the sky, forcing us to fly so low it sometimes felt like I could reach out and touch the trees. Lots of beaver dams on the Squirrel River and I saw a bald eagle flying low through a misty valley.

river valley with green trees and low hanging clouds

Cloudy skies made for a dramatic looking flight. NPS Photo/Cait Johnson

mountains and tundra with a rocky landing strip in the foreground

Can you spot the runway at Nakolik? NPS Photo/Julia Schock

Pilots in Northwest Alaska have to have an eagle eye when it comes to identifying good places to land. Airplanes might be the only way to access the remote parks up here, but landing in the backcountry is not like landing at an airport. Backcountry landing strips usually aren’t that different from the surrounding environment, and planes that fly into the backcountry have to be prepared to land on rocky gravel or bumpy tundra. Sometimes landing strips are even difficult for the untrained eye to see, which makes landing extra suspenseful for the passengers.

Noatak National Preserve

2 Comments Comments icon

  1. Sam
    November 09, 2017 at 01:01

    Anyone know the lat-long of this airstrip?

  2. Sam
    November 09, 2017 at 01:01

    Anyone know the lat-long of this airstrip?

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Last updated: July 26, 2016

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