Notes from 800 Feet

About This Blog

It’s a BIG country out there. The national parks in northwest Alaska cover 12 million acres. With a boat, snowmachine or sturdy set of legs, a person can immerse themselves in a little of that territory, but no one sees it like a pilot who experiences the parks from the air. The park service pilots fly a small tandem Scout on patrols and surveys for the National Park Service. Tundra, mountains, and sand dunes are what he sees from their “desk,” and from the sky, they takes notes on wildlife, ice on the rivers, plant green-up, storm cells, and smoking fires. On this blog, our pilots will share the view from 800 feet up. In turn, we hope you’ll be inspired to follow along virtually or get your feet out on the ground and enjoy the riches of these parks. Tune in for weekly observations from: Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

Autumn Flight in the Mountains

September 15, 2018 Posted by: Lauren Utykanski

NPS Biological Science Technician Sara Germain and SCA Intern Lauren Utykanski describe their backcountry flight over the Brooks Range in search of collared caribou calves.


Photos from the Brown Bear Survey

June 17, 2018 Posted by: Lauren Utykanski

NPS researchers and biologists conducted an aerial survey of brown bears in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. From the cockpit of their bush planes, they saw lots of bears, but they also saw other interesting wildlife in the Brooks Mountain Range.


Interpretive Rangers Visit the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes

August 15, 2018 Posted by: Lauren Utykanski

On August 8th, 2018, seasonal Interpretive Park Rangers Rachel and Thea joined one of our NPS pilots to visit the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes in Kobuk Valley National Park.


Kobuk Valley from the Sky: First-Time Flier

July 10, 2018 Posted by: Lauren Utykanski

Have you ever flown in a small aircraft? Well, SCA Intern Lauren Utykanski hadn’t until just recently. In this post, Utykanski shares her first experience flying in a bush plane. Along with other National Park Service employees, she flew over wild rivers, mountain ranges, and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes of Kobuk Valley National Park.


Ranger Pilot

October 25, 2017 Posted by: Lindsey Newhall

Interested in obscure jobs with the National Park Service? Check out what Ranger Pilots do!


Aviation and Archaeology

August 31, 2017 Posted by: Emma Woodruff and Lindsey Newhall

A team of archaeologists descend upon Noatak National Preserve in August 2017 for fieldwork.


Where are all the Loons?

July 25, 2017 Posted by: Hillary Robison, Lindsey Newhall, Eric Boyd

We're surveying loons again! Find out how and why, and check out photos from previous surveys!


Searching for Dall's Sheep

July 25, 2017 Posted by: Hillary Robison and Lindsey Newhall

In the Baird and DeLong Mountain ranges of Noatak National Preserve, researchers are looking for Dall's sheep, valued as an indicator of overall ecosystem health.


Bears in the Tundra

July 19, 2017 Posted by: Lindsey Newhall, Hillary Robison, Zachary Lee

The bears out on the tundra saw us in our planes!


Fireweed in Bloom!

July 27, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Even from the sky, you can see bright pink fireweed blooming on the tundra.


Landing in the Backcountry

July 26, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Planes are the best way to see parks in remote Alaska, but what happens when you want to get out of the plane?


Biologists at Work from Above!

July 15, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

National Parks Service biologists fly all over Noatak National Preserve in search of Dall's sheep.


Backcountry Ranger Stations

July 08, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Ranger Tyler makes a quick trip up to one of the backcountry ranger stations in Noatak National Preserve.


A Visit to Kobuk Valley National Park!

July 07, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

It's not just park rangers who can see Kobuk Valley National Park from the sky. Visitors can also enjoy a bird's-eye view.


Looking for Loons

July 06, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Researchers use airplanes to survey large swaths of the Cape Krusenstern National Monument for wildlife.


Sand Dunes in the Arctic

June 29, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

From the sky, you can see the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic.


The Growing Green

June 23, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

The tundra isn't always snowy. In the summer, it's a profusion of green.


Muskox on the Tundra

June 23, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

If you're lucky, you'll spot muskox grazing on the tundra while flying over Cape Krusenstern National Monument.


Icy Polygons from Above

June 21, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Cait

A flight over Cape Krusenstern National Monument reveals hints of the icy geology below the surface.


Caribou Tracks on a Snowy Tundra

October 08, 2015 Posted by: Ranger Cait

Ranger Tyler flies to a snowy Shungnak, passing over signs of a recent caribou migration.


Last updated: July 19, 2017

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