The Gates of the Arctic, revealed

From charging bears to glacier-carved valleys, photographs capture the real nature of the national park.

  • The snow line on the mountainsides descends in the spring in Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska.

    Joe Wilkins
  • A mother grizzly and her cub move along the top of a small ridge surrounded by the beautiful autumn colors.

    Joe Wilkins
  • Musk oxen have wool that provides at least eight times the warmth of sheep’s wool. Though the population was almost entirely eliminated from North America by 1900, 34 animals were imported from Russia in the 1930s and now their population numbers about 4,000 throughout Alaska, where they venture into the northern portions of the park.

    Joe Wilkins
  • Aufeis, or "ice on top," near the Hidden Valley. This layered ice forms during the winter along arctic and subarctic stream valleys where the flow of water is repeatedly blocked. The resultant dam causes successive overflows of freezing water and results in the layered look apparent in several of these pictures.

    Joe Wilkins
  • The Arrigetch River Valley provides innumerable locations where you can pitch a tent and have a glorious view in the morning.

    Joe Wilkins
  • The author reads "Into the Wild" while on a canoe trip in the Gates of the Arctic National Park.

    Joe Wilkins


Joe Wilkins, an avid climber and backpacker, has spent decades exploring remote regions of northern Alaska by foot, plane and raft. In Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration, Wilkins recounts his adventures in America’s second-largest national park. His exploits read like a conversation with a well-adventured friend, equal parts memoir and informative guide.

From encounters with charging bears to witnessing the seasonal caribou migration, Wilkins gives readers a sense of what it’s like to be immersed in a remote wilderness. Insider knowledge and logistics are sprinkled throughout, giving a sense of the preparation needed to survive adventures like his. Wilkins’ accompanying photographs capture the park’s unique glacier-carved valleys and scenic rivers. “Few people have invested so much time and effort in exploring and getting to know this area,” Zak Richter, a retired ranger at Gates of the Arctic National Park, observed. “(Wilkins’) descriptions of the region are accurate, current and authentic.”

Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration
By Joe Wilkins.
309 pages, hardcover: $39.95.
Brown Books Publishing Group, 2018.