Bush Pilot's View

Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve


I'm spoiled with my lifestyle. I mean, I started out as a child in the back seat of a Super Cub, and my dad flew everywhere. And so I just kind of grew up with it, and I accept it as it's just natural for us.


I'm Lynn Ellis, and I grew up on a homestead in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I've been flying within these mountains since I was 16 years old.

When I was a little kid, my dad took me on my first airplane ride, flew up there and flew over the edge of the Nabesna glacier. Course, I was probably, what, seven years old, maybe, and I never have forgotten that.

The ability to be able to access places that are inaccessible, basically, I mean, that's a real gift. And I'm really thankful that I've managed to be able to do that all my life.



So much freedom here, and so much beauty, and it never gets old. I don't know the words for it. I'm at a loss for words, but it's just awesome.

This is where I grew up. And so it becomes home more than anything.

My mother was one hell of a backwoods lady. She taught us all the things that we needed to know. It was a subsistence-- a true subsistence lifestyle. I worked for my dad as soon as I got to be old enough to do things and was in his guide business.

And then I started my air service, and I flew air charter out of Gulkana for what 30 years. I've been to the calderea on Mount Drum.

My job designation now is 2181 pilot. So what I do is I fly for the park. I primarily-- I haul a lot of the maintenance people around because the only access we have is by air.

I fly search and rescue missions if they come up. I fly the Rangers and the LEs, and we do eagle surveys, we do moose surveys, we do caribou surveys, we do wolf surveys.

Air traffic 757s overhead. Jake's Bar 4,000.


And what I really want to do when I came here was to pass on my knowledge of the Wrangells to the younger rangers that are coming in, and to be able to mentor the pilots, the newer pilots that come in.

And as I get older, I realize that my time is running out. I just seem to pay more attention now to nature than I did before. I actually think that it helps me deal with the mortality of the human race.

I think that if we can keep what we've got, basically, especially the wilderness destinations, I just think that to have this vastness that we have is unique, and we should endeavor to keep it like it is.

You really begin to feel humble, and you feel small in these mountains. I like the feeling of small. And you get up against one of these mountains, and you're in your airplane, and it's so tiny. It's smaller than any mosquito ever was. And you fly around this mountain and look at it, and it's like, it's a good feeling. It's just a really good feeling to know that there's bigger and better things out there.


In Celebration of the NPS Centennial and the Wilderness Act. Featuring Lynn Ellis, park pilot. Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve Wilderness is the largest in the United States, protecting over 9 million acres of steep mountains, winding rivers, glaciated valleys and countless wildlife species. Captions available.


5 minutes, 41 seconds


Sarah Gulick

Date Created


Copyright and Usage Info