Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 600 mi/966 km northeast of Anchorage, is the largest in the U.S., covering more than 18 million acres/7.2 million hectares. It's often called America's Serengeti because of the variety of animals within its boundaries: lynx, caribou, grizzly and polar bears, arctic fox, wolves, Dall sheep, musk oxen and many species of birds.
Controversy continues about opening the reserve to oil drilling, but those favoring preservation have thus far carried the day. Many Alaska residents—including some of the Alaska Natives on the North Slope—are in favor of allowing oil exploration in the area. On the other hand, the Gwich'in people, who subsist on caribou that bear their calves in the refuge, oppose drilling.
Located in far-northeastern Alaska, bordering Canada and the Arctic Ocean, the reserve offers spectacular scenery, including the tallest peaks of the Brooks Range. Camping and hiking are unrestricted, but mosquitoes and black flies can be almost unbearable in midsummer. (Be sure to take along a head net.)
The area is normally reached by air. The largest village within the reserve is Kaktovik, on Barter Island in the Arctic Ocean. The brief summer ranges from cool to warm, but dry. Winters are relatively dry, but severely cold.
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