Last updated: July 26, 2016
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.
Cloudy skies made for a dramatic looking flight. NPS Photo/Cait Johnson
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.