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Wild Preserves Lots of wilderness. Not much else.

The parks of Alaska’s far north have similar genesis. In 1978, Pres. Jimmy Carter declared national-monument status for Bering Land Bridge, Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk Valley, and Noatak. In 1980, he signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which turned each of the aforementioned monuments, along with lots of other territory, into either national parks, preserves, or other designation of federal land. These four parks comprise more than 30,000 square miles and offer great opportunities for hiking, rafting, wildlife viewing, and exploring vast stretches of unspoiled, untamed, breathtaking wilderness.
In the Arrigetch Peaks, hikers view Camel Peak and its reflection in a mountain lake. Patrick J. Endres / www.alaskaphotographics.com
Called omingmak by the Inupiaq, musk ox are home in Gates of the Arctic. Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve Bob Marshall was a wealthy easterner and conservationist who traveled to Alaska often in the late 1920s through the 1930s, and ranged extensively from his base in Wiseman. In the early ’30s, after exploring the North Fork Koyukuk River, Marshall wrote “The main Brooks Range divide was entirely covered with snow. Close at hand, only about ten miles to the north, was a precipitous pair of mountains [Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain], one on each side of the North Fork. I bestowed the name Gates of the Arctic on them.” The name stuck.

To learn more: www.nps.gov/gaar/index.htm.

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Evening light illuminates autumn colors on a band of willows along the Noatak River in the Noatak National Preserve. David Shaw / Alamy Stock Photo
Even if you don’t see grizzlies at Noatak, you’ll likely know they’re not far away. Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Noatak National Preserve The presence of human activity in the proximity of Noatak National Preserve dates back to more than 13,000 years, but the Noatak River is perhaps the last complete river system in the country—complete meaning the river and its tributaries—that hasn’t been dammed or diverted or otherwise altered by humans. In fact, the establishment of the preserve centered on protecting the Noatak River basin for perpetuity.

To learn more: www.nps.gov/noat/index.htm.

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Granite tors line the ridges and rise toward sunlight filtering through the clouds, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Patrick J. Endres / www.alaskaphotographics.com
A smorgasbord of edible berries, including bog blueberry, grow in Bering Land Bridge preserve. Patrick J. Endres / www.alaskaphotographics.com
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve The significance of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve extends beyond the obvious. Not only is the area historically recognized as part of the land route that connected North America to Asia, but also important for geology and culture. The Serpentine Hot Springs and towering granite tors speak of active and ancient geothermal activity. The public bathhouse along the hot springs is the only thing approaching “facility” in the park. Natives still use this land and herd caribou here—the only park in the country where such herding occurs.

To learn more: www.nps.gov/bela/index.htm

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