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Summer trekking in Alaska's Arctic.

The picture at right was taken in one of the wildest and most remote places left in North America: the treeless north slope of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), in Alaska's northeast corner.

It was snapped on a June evening when hikers (lower left) took an after-dinner stroll above camp on the Kongakut River. Here, the lowangle light ftom the midnight sun turns rounded hummocks of tundra almost gold. Rays glint off the steel blue braids of the river where it spreads out onto the refuge's coastal plain, and patches of snow linger along the banks. The dark ridge on the distant horizon is the rugged spine of the Brooks Range.

Spectacular Arctic scenery is only one reason to consider a trip to ANWR. This wild corner of Alaska has also been in the news lately because of its potential oil reserves, and a visit offers the opportunity to see what's at stake.

The Bush administration recommends opening the coastal plain to oil exploration and drilling; environmentalists want the entire coastal plain designated as wilderness to protect caribou calving grounds and other wildlife habitats from future development. Legislation has been submitted by both sides. At our deadline, Congress had postponed hearings on pending ANWR legislation because of last March's catastrophic oil spill in Prince William Sound, south of Valdez. Even with recent publicity, ANWR visitation is minimal. Still, each year more and more adventurers are making the long-and expensive-trek to sample the incredible emptiness of this 19 1/2-million-acre refuge.

Outfitter-led trips along the Canning, Hulahula, Kongakut, and other rivers combine the thrills of whitewater rafting with backpacking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. These trips are a good way for first-time visitors to explore the refuge. Come in June, and you may see portions of the Porcupine caribou herd-165,000 strong-as it migrates to or from calving grounds on the coastal plain. Best access is by scheduled flights from Fairbanks toFort Yukon, then by chartered bush plane to your drop-off point.

Keep in mind that this is true wilderness; the refuge has no roads, campgrounds, trail signs-or even trails. Travelers must be completely selfreliant from drop-off until scheduled pickup.

For help with trip planning, write to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 101 12th Ave., Box 20, Fairbanks 99701. For a free vacation planner, write to Alaska Division of Tourism, Box E, Juneau 99811.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Arctic National Wildlife Range, Alaska
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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