Noatak River, Kotzebue Sound

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Noatak River, Kotzebue Sound

by | Feb 23, 2019

The Noatak River starts on Mount lgikpak in the Schwatka Mountains and flows southwest for 425 miles (685 km) to Kotzebue Sound at the mouth of Hotham Inlet, about 7 miles (11 km) north of Kotzebue, Alaska. The early English name “Inland River” was first published by surgeon John Simpson, of the Royal Navy, on his map of 1853 and appears to be a general translation of the Inupiat “Nunulak” which could also mean “new land” or “belong to the land”.

The Noatak basin is the largest undisturbed watershed in the United States. The river watershed is entirely north of the Arctic Circle and lies within two protected areas, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Noatak National Preserve. The Noatak National Preserve alone encompasses 6,500,000 acres (2,630,456 ha). Like most arctic rivers, rare severe rain events can result in temporary rapid inundation of normally dry river bars. There are a few small remnant glaciers in the Schwatka Mountains but their contribution to the water budget of the Noatak is negligible. On December 2, 1980, the 330 miles (530 km) of the Noatak, from its source in Gates of the Arctic National Park to the Kelly River in the Noatak National Preserve, became part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

There are small inholdings of private land within the National Preserve, and some of these have private cabins. The only permanent settlement along the Noatak River is the village of Noatak, about 90 river miles (145 km) upstream of Kotzebue Sound. The village has a lighted public gravel airstrip, several small stores, a post office, and a school. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Noatak at Kotzebue Sound here:

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