Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park was established in 1980 and is comprised of 8.4 million acres of rugged landscape. Wilderness advocate Robert Marshall gave the park its name, citing two peaks, Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, as the gates from the central Brooks Range to the Arctic.
The elements and tectonic shifts have given shape to Gates of the Arctic.
So, too, have glaciers.
The glaciers of Gates of the Arctic are unique—they are the only ones lying entirely above the Arctic Circle. Among them are those snaking through the Arrigetch Peaks of the Brooks Range.
Arrigetch means “fingers of the outstretched hand” in the Inupiat language.
Runoff from the park’s glaciers feeds several rivers that cross Gates of the Arctic, including the Alatna, John, Kobuk, Noatak, North Fork Koyukuk, and Tinayguk. Those rivers provide sustenance to the park’s rich plant and animal life, which, in turn, has provided resources for people going back 13,000 years, when nomadic hunters and gathers inhabited the region.
The park’s glaciers, like many others in Alaska and within the US parks system, are retreating. The National Park Service estimates the Arrigetch Glaciers have receded about a quarter of mile in the past century. And, as those glaciers shrink, salmon populations are declining, which impacts the livelihoods of communities living and working downstream.
The Arctic is warming at twice the rate as lower latitudes, which is melting land and sea ice, as well as threatening biodiversity.
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