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Holland America Cruise Tours  Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

The park's dramatic title was coined by legendary wilderness advocate and far-north explorer Robert Marshall, who described two peaks, Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, as the gates from Alaska's central Brooks Range into the arctic regions of the far north.

As any trip to the park will attest, Marshall wasn't just exercising poetic license. The gates lead to a labyrinth of glaciated valleys and forbidding, snowcapped peaks, of innumerable rivers running rampant through a landscape.

Wind, water, ice, and plate tectonics all played a part in sculpting the park's wildly varied landscape. Southerly foothills run smack into rows of mountains averaging 4,000 feet, some of which climax in peaks soaring to more than 7,000 feet high. At the Arctic Divide, the story is played out in reverse, culminating in tundra plain that stretches to the Arctic Ocean.

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Gates of the Arctic Location

Lying entirely north of the Arctic Circle, the park-preserve includes a portion of the Central Brooks Range, the northern most extension of the Rocky Mountains. Often referred to as the greatest remaining wilderness in North America, this second largest unit of the National Park System is characterized by jagged peaks, gentle arctic valleys, wild rivers, and numerous lakes. The forested southern slopes contrast to the barren northern reaches of the site at the edge of Alaska's "north slope." Together with adjacent Kobuk Valley National Park and Noatak National Preserve, it comprises one of the largest park areas in the world. Access into the park is by charter plane from Fairbanks or other locations.

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Gates of the Arctic Climate

The central Brooks Range has long severe winters and relatively short cool summers. The entire region receives continuous sunlight during the summer for at least 30 days. The north side of the Brooks Range has an arctic climate. Mean annual temperatures are colder than on the south side. The warmest month, July, has 60° F maximum and 40° F minimum. Precipitation is extremely light, about 5 to 10 inches a year, making this essentially an "arctic desert."

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Gates of the Arctic Wildlife

Although its animals are spread very thinly across the park, Gates of the Arctic hosts a wide variety of birds and wildlife. Wolves occur throughout the park, traveling in packs or family groups as they hunt. Caribou range over the entire western arctic region, while moose are most common in the forested regions south of the Brooks Range; they often move to alpine habitats during the summer. Brown bear populations concentrate along major streams and rivers within the park; these barren-ground grizzlies are normally found in open alpine or tundra habitats.

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Gates of the Arctic Excursions

A few of the excursions available at Gates of the Arctic include hiking adventures through scenic trails, fixed-wing flightseeing over Kluane's most popular sights, an exhilarating whitewater adventure down the Tatshenshini River, or a relaxing, scenic Lake Kathleen Cultural Cruise.

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