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The astonishing and beautiful landscape of the Noatak National Preserve will leave you speechless, with towering mountain ranges and a raging river, home to some incredible wildlife. The preserve is located in northwest Alaska and was established to protect the Noatak River basin, just north of the Arctic circle. The river system is thought to be the last in the US that has not been altered by human activity.
As the park is extremely remote, access can be a bit of a challenge. Most people will rent an RV in Kenai Peninsula Borough and stay around Anchorage, before taking one of the daily flights to the town of Kotzebue or Fairbanks, before flying to the park via one of the local air taxi operators. For many, this long trip is worth it, when presented with endless recreational activities and one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
Rafting the 400-mile Noatak River is a great way to see the preserve. There are rapids on the river that offer class II+, although most of the river is class I or II. Float sessions run from June or July, which is when the river thaws, to September, so the summer months are the best time to rent a camper near Noatak National Preserve If you want to take part in this activity.
Wildlife viewing is a big part of visiting the park. As it is so wild and remote, the wildlife here is undisturbed, so you have a good chance of seeing some of the creatures that live in the area. The terrain along the river is wide and open, offering good opportunities for wildlife viewing. You have the best chance of spotting some wild caribou, as the Western Arctic Herd migrates through the region and number a staggering 490,000. Other creatures, you may spot when motorhome camping include moose, brown bear, wolves, lynx, and a huge variety of birds.
Hiking in the Brooks Mountain Range is popular in the summer months, but due to the varied and difficult terrain, it is better suited to the more experienced hiker. Hiking along the ridgelines tends to be easier than on the lower level tundra. Experienced anglers also come to go camping at Noatak National Preserve and try their luck with a line in the fast-flowing river.
When visiting the preserve, most people will go camping with an RV in or around the city of Anchorage for easy access to transport. There are plenty of options for where to stay in this part of Alaska, such as Ship Creek RV Park. It is located just a few blocks from Downtown Anchorage and offers a host of amenities and conveniences. Sites here come with water and electrical hook-ups on the pull-thru sites.
Another option is Golden Nugget RV Park, a large park with over 200 sites and is open all year round. It is a big rig friendly park, with 34 large pull-thru sites and 87 back-in sites to accommodate all types of RV rentals. There are four heated restrooms with free hot showers, and on-site evening entertainment such as BBQs when there is good weather.
As most people will at least pass through the town of Kotzebue on a trip to the park, it may be worth staying a while and exploring the things to do in the area. A fascinating point of interest is the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, a museum that shows visitors the natural history of the area. The animal and wildlife exhibits showcase how some of the hardiest creatures live in this part of the world, plus you can learn about the protected arctic circles and Native people who have lived here for generations. At just two minutes from the airport, you have no excuse not to visit.
A great place to pick up a souvenir is at the Sulianich Art Center. Inside you will find some beautiful, locally crafted items on display, some of which are for sale. Crafts include jewelry, paintings, artwork, prints, baskets, and more all of which have been created by talented people who live in the area. Sometimes the artists themselves are there and will be happy to answer any questions that you may have about their work. The center so has a unique display of mammoth fossils and carvings.
For a relaxing day trip, consider a visit to the Serpentine Hot Springs. The warm waters of the springs can be a welcome respite from the harsh arctic weather, so it is no wonder that it has been a popular place to visit for hundreds of years. As well as being warm and relaxing, the waters are also known for their varied health benefits.