Old Bettles

I keep wondering when my luck will run out on this weather. The sun was shining and a light breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay as we got our things packed onto our rafts on the gravel bar by the Koyukuk River by Bettles.

Soon after we were off, floating the relatively calm waters of the Koyukuk downstream to the locations were Bettles used to be, now referred to as Old Bettles by the locals. We stopped to look at birds and eat lunch on the way down.

Gear on the packraft
Wildflowers blooming!

Pretty uneventful float, but a beautiful day. Nice and quiet, with time to think and relax in the packraft.

A little before 1500 we arrived on the banks of Old Bettles. We dawned our bug gear. For the first time in Alaska, I put on DEET. We ventured back into the bush to find the old buildings. The first house displayed gorgeous moose sheds. The mosquitoes were fierce as we walked through the brush.

Decorations on a cabin

We walked past about 6 buildings looking inside. Each building was in a different state of decay. The buildings were slowly sinking into the soil because of the freezing and thawing of the soil. It’s strange to see a building literally sinking into the soil. We went back around the village to look at the old store.

Old General Store

The ceiling of the building in the old store is starting to cave in, but an old shop table shows what the building was used for at one time. We scurried up the hill near by and took in the view of the river. One of the houses had used soil to insulate the roof which was very interesting.

After we were done getting bit by mosquitoes and had enough of the village we went back to our boats. We got back in them to go across the river to where the mouth of the trail was that we would need to walk back the next day.

We spent the evening on the gravel bar after setting up camp. The wind was blowing pretty good which kept the bugs away, so it was very pleasant.

We were all pretty tired so we went to settle in for the night. I laid down without closing the rainfly and had the screen door on. The sun was blasting my side of the tent. I closed the rainfly a bit, but not all the way.

About 30 minutes later I woke up from a light sleep sweating profusely. I had to get out of there!

I took my sleeping stuff and brought it out on the horsetail grass that we were camped on. I laid under the bright sun. Still hot, but we much cooler with the breeze coming through. Definitely not a problem I have had in the lower 48. Maybe I’ve been too hot, but never from the sun still in the sky.

Finally the sun went below a low ridge and the breeze died at the same time. Definitely unfortunate because the mosquitoes came quickly after. I closed myself off into my Sea-to-Summit Insect Shield sleeping bag liner and they didn’t even seem to notice me, but I knew I couldn’t spent all night out in the open.

I went back into the tent and went in and out of sleep the rest of the night. I finally cooled off enough at around 4am to get into my sleeping bag.

In the morning the mosquitoes were waiting for us outside the tent. Eventually we had to go out.. We packed up all our things and had a quick breakfast and hit the trail around 915.

This is not a maintained trail in the summer, it is used as a winter trail that people use to snow machine and ski from Bettles to Allakaket.

The trail was squishy, but flat and straight the whole way through. In several locations there was no trail. Instead there was a swamp. I easily topped the XtraTufs I was wearing in the first swampy area we went through.

The ‘trail’

The sun blasted us. We had to wear enough clothing to be protected from the bugs so it was hot, but better than being bitten. In one spot on the trail we went into a large swampy area. There were large continents of moss that grew. They seemed like a great place to step. Once you stepped on them they gave way and I never hit anything solid underneath them. I was wondering if there was anything solid down there.

We stopped for a short snack in a breezy and relatively bug free area. I rolled by ankles on the uneven ground countless numbers of times but we kept going.

Almost three hours later we hit solid ground and it was agony to walk on. Without the give of the soil, we could feel the full weights of our packs.

We walked the rest of the way back to the visitor center singing Bohemian Rhapsody and we had made it.

A great trip, great people, great weather.


This week I leave for a trip out into the park. I am incredibly excited and can’t wait to share my stories from that trip!


6 thoughts on “Old Bettles

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  1. I grew up in bettles. I haven’t been back since 2003. Great to see pics. Of Old Bettles. We used to swim off the bedrock just upriver from the old town.

    Liked by 1 person

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