The Brooks Range I
(20-23 June 2001)

            Every Summer some "Research Experience for Undergraduates" (REU) summer students work here at the Geophysical Institute. One of the things they do is go on a field trip to the Brooks Range, (the range of mountains that bounds Alaska's "North Slope" on the south) to learn about the geology of northern Alaska. The trip is organized by Bill Simpson, Paul Layer and Doug Christensen of the GI. In 2001 they needed another driver so I went along.

Click here for a map.
            This is one of the best, least dusty stretches of the Dalton highway, otherwise known as the 'haul road' because all the stuff to build and supply the Alaska pipeline is hauled on it. This is where the Dalton crosses the Tolvana River, a few miles from Livengood at the beginning of our trip. It was near here that some moron with a rifle shot a hole in the pipeline in the Fall of 2001.

         Dr. Layer (red shirt, at center) holding forth at the first rock stop we made. Dr. Christensen is also in there, which means that two fourths of my grad committee was running this field trip. 

            This is the Yukon River crossing at mile 57 of the Dalton (that's 57 miles north of Livengood). The view is from the north bank, looking south.

            The pipeline roughly parallels the Dalton highway all the way to Prudoe Bay. It crosses the Yukon River with the road bridge, the northern entrance of which is seen at right. 

            This is a pull-off on the Dalton, about 10-15 miles south of the Arctic Circle, at a place called "Finger Mountain". Finger Mountain is actually just a tall rock sticking out of the ground. At left are our 5 Chevy Suburbans. In background are the pipeline, the road, and the dust plumes of other vehicles (the dust is just one of the things that make driving on the Dalton a pain).   

        Another view of the land around "Finger Mountain", including the rock itself. The ground is rocky and brushy, with lots of water-filled potholes to help mosquitoes breed. We camped a few miles north of here, right on the Arctic Circle. The place was swarming with the little vampires . . .  

            This is Coldfoot, a stop on the road at the southern edge of the Brooks Range that serves travellers on the Dalton. These buildings are the cafe (right) and the post office (left).   

        Going north, the Dalton passes up the valley of the middle fork of the Koyukuk River and under some pretty jagged mountains in the southern Brooks Range . . The big, bare-rock one has a Alaska Native name, but I forget what it is.

        . . . and so does the pipeline.

        This and the next two pictures are panoramas taken from where we camped, west of Galbraith Lake (marked in blue on the map mentioned above. This is a view east, toward the lake and Atigun Gorge at left. The arrow points to the bluff where I took the last picture on this webpage from.

        The view to the west.   

        View to the northeast. The sky was a lot clearer the second day at Galbraith. The low ridge out there is the terminal moraine of the glacier that used to flow north, thru the valley up which the Dalton now runs. The pipeline and the road are visible crossing the terminal moraine, at the center of the image. 

        Our campsite for 2.5 days at Galbraith Lake, on the northern edge of the Range. I took this on 21 June 2001, the Summer solstice, and, since Galbraith Lake is something like 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, there was of course no sunset. 

        The second day we all went for a walk up Atigun Gorge (actually the word 'valley' would probably be better). This is a view of its' north side, from its' southern slopes.   

        This picture, similar to the one above, shows the Atigun River, which flows northeast thru the gorge to join the Sagavanirktok River, which in turn flows into the Arctic Ocean.   

        These are typical of the crags that form the south wall of the gorge. 

        This is a picture of a ravine that runs into the southern side of the gorge. The creek at the bottom of it literally shoots out of the face of a cliff farther up the ravine. The folded rocks on the other side are typical of the rocks on the south of the gorge. The lines on the gravel slope at left are Dall sheep tracks. We found the remains of one that had gotten bear-killed and eaten, scattered up and down the ravine. 

        This is a view up the ravine shown above. Water can be see shooting out of the headwall. For scale one of our summer students appears at left center (yes, that is snow lying there on the longest day of the year...).   

            This is a panorama looking Northwest, back toward our campsite, over (front to back) the pipeline, haul road, Atigun River and Galbraith Lake. Our campsite is just the other side of Galbraith Lake. The ridge that runs between the mountains is the terminal moraine again, which is composed of all the rock and stuff that was dumped by the glacier when it carved out this valley. Beyond it is the North Slope coastal plain.