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kobuk river

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“WHICH WAY?” I shouted over the roar of the engine. Seth leaned forward, speed-reading the three-way split in the river that lay ahead. He gestured left.We both knew we had two chances to make that gooseneck turn into a six-foot-wide, three-inch-deep slot at 30 mph: slim and none.

Visitors can see everything from bears and murres to sand dunes and salmon.

[by David Shaw]


It’s Denali National Park’s fault I live in Alaska. Fourteen years ago, I accepted a position as a field biologist, banding birds at the far end of the park’s only road. For two months I awoke every clear morning to a view of Denali itself, the Great One rising 20,320 feet into thin air. I was hooked, and have been here ever since.

You could travel the wildest reaches of Alaska for a lifetime and not witness a scene like this—a pack of wolves feeding on a caribou kill on the edge of a rushing river. From the crest of a tundra bluff, I watched the gray alpha male tug at a hindquarter as others waited their turns. Then a female grizzly with two cubs arrived and drove the pack off. As she and one cub fed, the other hammed it up, standing on hind legs, rolling his eyes, gnawing on an antler. I sat transfixed behind my camera tripod, glued to the eyepiece, squeezing off shot after shot. It was easy to imagine that I sat alone somewhere up some far arctic valley, hundreds of miles from the nearest road. But to my right and left, crowds gathered—several busloads of people jammed against he windows, plus a half dozen professional photographers and…