For many visitors to Alaska, crossing the Arctic Circle is the most memorable moment of the journey. The Far North is a land where legends are passed from generation to generation, and yet modern industry coexists with the wildlife and traditional subsistence lifestyles.
Communities in the Far North are accessible from Fairbanks or Anchorage, via jet or smaller aircraft. Independent travel is easy, and many convenient tour packages are also available.
In Nome you'll find a variety of opportunities to enjoy Alaska's great outdoors. Surrounded by tundra, Nome provides access to nearly 300 miles of roads, which visitors can use to explore the country side and discover pristine, untouched wilderness. Summer offers extended daylight, perfect for exploring the Seward Peninsula.
You'll discover wildflowers, moose and reindeer, sea birds, and seals. The area also offers excellent fishing for salmon, arctic char, and grayling.
In town, the Carrie McLain Museum houses 6,000 historical photos, and exhibits about Native culture, Eskimo art, the gold rush, and Nome-Russia exchanges.
At the turn of the century, prospectors sifted $3 million in gold from the town's sandy beaches. Today you can learn how to wield a gold pan, visit abandoned gold dredges, participate in sled dog demonstrations, or shop for ivory carvings and craft items made by local Eskimos.
Nome's most exciting annual event is the conclusion of the Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth. This 1,049-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome begins on the first Saturday in March, and commemorates efforts to deliver life-saving serum during a diphtheria epidemic in 1925.
St. Lawrence Island lies in the Bering Sea, 200 miles west of Nome and 38 miles from Russia. The island has been inhabited for several thousand years, and its people are descendants of Siberian-Yupik Eskimos. The island has two villages: Gambell and Savoonga. Eskimos in both communities still preserve traditional lifestyles. Several archaeological sites near Gambell are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bird watchers from around the world travel to the island in search of Asiatic species rarely found in North America. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of Russia.
Located 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, Kotzebue is one of Alaska's largest and oldest Inupiat Eskimo villages. As in many villages, Natives practice traditional subsistence activities, and use modern technology as well.
Devoted to Inupiat culture, the NANA Museum of the Arctic offers a cultural slide show, demonstrations of drumming, the blanket toss and fancy parka sewing, a wildlife diorama, performances by the Kotzebue Eskimo Dancers, and storytelling. The museum's Inupiat Culture Camp offers information about traditional clothing, foods, harvesting and survival techniques.
Many Native artifacts are on display at the Kotzebue Senior Citizens Cultural Center, which also welcomes visitors to potlatches, musicales, and dance celebrations.
During the summer, this arctic village receives 36 days of continuous daylight. Kotzebue offers modern accommodations and several restaurants.
The Inupiat Eskimo community of Barrow is the northernmost settlement in America, and one of the largest Eskimo communities. The seat of the 88,000-square-mile North Slope Borough, Barrow is also the world's largest municipality. This far north, the summer sun doesn't set for 82 days, shining from May 10 to August 2.
Across from the airport, the Will Rogers and Wiley Post Monument commemorates the 1935 airplane crash that killed bother the American humorist and the famous pilot. Two other monuments, located at the crash site 15 miles south of town, are on the National Register of Historic Places.
In April and May, visitors can often see Eskimos heading for whaling camps. Whaling and other subsistence activities still play an important role in this arctic community.
Barrow has several hotels, restaurants, and other visitor services. Eskimo clothing, masks, baskets, and dolls are available in local shops.
Two hundred miles east of Barrow is Prudhoe Bay, home of the largest oil field in North America. The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline starts here, and ends in Valdez. Package tours of the oil field area are available; unaccompanied visits are not permitted.
Located 260 miles northwest of Fairbanks in the central Brooks Range, the village of Anaktuvuk Pass lies on a caribou migration route. This is the last remaining settlement of the Nunamiut, or inland northern Inupiat Eskimo, whose ancestors date back to 500 BC.
The local Simon Paneak Memorial Museum operates year-round, offering geological exhibits and Nunamiut cultural displays. Local crafts, such as caribou skin masks, are available for purchase.
Thousands of caribou migrate through the Brooks Range area. The region includes millions of acres of wilderness park lands in theCape Krusenstern National Monument, Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge,Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Backpacking in these isolated mountains, or floating down the unspoiled rivers, are wilderness experiences of the rarest quality.
From Fairbanks or Bettles, the headquarters for many Alaskan guides, you can fly to wilderness lodges scattered throughout the Brooks Range.
Or you can drive the gravel Dalton Highway (North Slope Haul Road) to Deadhorse. This 414-mile road parallels the northernmost portion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Few services are available, but wildlife is abundant and fishing for arctic grayling is superb. For road conditions and public access restrictions contact the Alaska Department of Transportation at (907)456-7623.