Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Arctic Alaska is one of the greatest wilderness areas in the world. It is a delicate balance of tundra, boreal forest, coastal plains, and mountains. It’s vastness is deceiving because the Arctic ecosystem is extremely fragile and is easily impacted by man’s activities. The Arctic climate produces permafrost and marginal growth conditions for vegetation. Land that has been damaged may take years to regenerate, or it may never recover. (See the Travel and Tour Operators list for information on guides and outfitters that can arrange hiking/backpacking trips in the area.)

Generally defined, tundra means “rolling treeless plain”. A short growing season followed by snow, low light, and melt-freeze cycles combine to force tundra plants and animals to adapt to a rigorous environment.

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Avoid Places Where Impact is Just Beginning

avoid-placesMost campsites can recover completely from a limited amount of use. However, a threshold is eventually reached where the ability of vegetation to regenerate cannot keep pace with the amount of trampling it receives. Once this threshold is reached, continued use will cause the site to deteriorate rapidly. This will result in the development of an established campsite with discernible bare ground, or “barren core.”