Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ'S)

Frequently Asked Questions about Bettles Lodge and Birchwood Aircraft Services

1. Are there hairdryers in the rooms or should I bring one?
Yes, we have hairdryers in our 4 Jacuzzi rooms and in the 4 common bathrooms in the Aurora Lodge.

2. Are the “common” bathrooms like high school where everyone showers together?!?
Nope, Shared/Common bathrooms have a lockable door, sink, toilet and shower, BUT what happens in Bettles mostly stays in Bettles. Jacuzzi rooms have an in-room toilet (W/C toilet in closet), sink & jetted Jacuzzi brand bathtub, no shower, showers are in the common bathrooms, just a step down the hall.

3. What time will the airplane pick me up in Bettles?
Flight arrival/departure times in Bettles are variable due to other village stops on the way here possibly as late ETA back in Fairbanks as 6 pm.

4. What time does my flight get back to Fairbanks?
Arrival times back in Fairbanks are variable due to other village stops after you get picked up in Bettles, but usually by/before 6 pm.

5. Does the Lodge sell fishing licenses?
Nope, but you can print a non-resident fishing license from home, check-out

6. Aurora Lodge has 8 hotel rooms total, 4 Jacuzzi rooms w/toilet, sink, jetted Jacuzzi bathtub, 4 Standard rooms with no plumbing in them, use the 4 common bathrooms all in the same building, a step or three down/across the hall.

7. How early in the year can you see Aurora?
We’ve seen the Aurora (very faintly) as early as August 8th but the closer you get to Winter Solstice (Dec 21/22) the better chance you have because of more “dark” night check out

8. How late in the season can you see the Aurora?
Usually, April 15th is about the latest to see weak Aurora as astronomical twilight stops ending, then dark night, then beginning again for dawn about April 2nd. This year 2023 there was an intense geomagnetic storm that was seen even in south Texas on April 23rd 2023! (but not usually).

9. Do I need to “bullseye” the New Moon for the darkest nights?
No, a week preceding or after the actual New Moon are equally as good, and a little moon actually makes for more interesting photos. Our Star (the sun) is in charge of how intense the show is, when it displays or, can we see it even before “dark” night? how long it lasts etc. Now… all we need are clear enough skies to see stars & planets, and YOU have to be awake and outside looking up!

10. Does Spring Equinox make for much better Aurora?
Not necessarily… the sun may or may not be throwing CME material or hot fast solar wind out of a Coronal Hole (hole in the sun’s magnetic shield that lets faster solar wind pile up like sand on a shovel blade), and we might have thick enough clouds to not be able to see the Aurora on any day/night of the year.

11. Can I book dog sled rides or snow machine tours before I arrive during the colder months?
Nope, we’ll advise you what is prudent and possible once you arrive in Bettles. Mother Nature dictates all we do here year-round.

12. Will you wake us up if the Aurora comes out after we’ve retired for the night?
Yep, we have an employee dedicated to just this, until 2 am when their shift ends. We always advise to set your alarm for 2 am and if you haven’t had a knock on your door, get up and outside and check, if you’re serious about catching the Aurora. If you see Aurora, please wake up the other Guests!

13. When is the best time for catching the Aurora?
I go with pure statistics… the two weeks surrounding the two or three, new moons closest to winter solstice. There are actually times during any day of the year, that if it were dark, at our latitude, that we could see Aurora all day/night.

14. Do more nights booked during the warmer months when I have a “National Park Collector Wilderness Adventure” tour booked give me a better chance to get in to the two Arctic National Parks?
Not necessarily… Our small venue can do one of these tours per day, for up to 6 passengers and it wouldn’t be fair to “bump” the folks scheduled for the next day’s tour.

That being said, if weather stops us from flying one day, if you do book an extra night or two the other air service that operates in Bettles during the summer may have an opening as they typically hire several Pilots and operate a larger Air Taxi Service.

15. Is R/T air transportation included in the package price?
Yep, and it’s actually listed as 1. On the package inclusions list.

16. When do you have enough snow for dog sled rides and snowmachine tours?
Historically late October/early November. We typically are two weeks ahead of Fairbanks for snowfall then two weeks behind for “thaw” in the spring. It’s all up to Mother Nature, just like everything else is!

One motorboat/float trip is included in your package during the summer months, for a stay of 3 nights or more, and all dependent on river level. Mother Nature is the Boss!

Winter flight-see is (like everything else) dependent on Mother Nature i.e. temperature, visibility, wind, etc… AND having a Commercial Pilot in Bettles to be able to do that. Winter flight-see typically is available in February & March, when/if we have a Commercial Pilot on staff.

19. Are there signs where I can take my/our picture in the Arctic National Parks?
Nope, as aforementioned, this is unadulterated Mother Nature. We know EVERYONE wants to “have proof” that they’ve actually stepped foot in both Arctic National Parks so we do have a double-sided sign, one side “Gates of the Arctic” and the other “Kobuk Valley” National Park/s that we send with you. You are of course invited to make your own version/s of this if you like to take along on the NP tour too!

20. Are there out houses/bathrooms to use in the National Parks?
Nope, we send a hand
spade and TP with you on the tour. If you need to go to “the bathroom” you should dig a “cat hole” go in the cat hole, TP in the cat hole and cover it up. We try to leave these pristine National Parks as least as good as we found them. You probably won’t be the first visitors there, and probably won’t be the last!

21. How long can we spend in each National Park?
Most folks spend 15 min to an hour in each NP, as there are no trails, bathrooms, Visitor’s Center, shelter, or any other infrastructure and the mosquitos will be there to welcome you in each park…

22. Is there a fee to get in to these Arctic National Parks?
Nope, “free of charge” BUT you will need an airplane to be able to land in Kobuk Valley and/or Gates of the Arctic.

23. Can I hike in the Arctic National Parks?
Where we land on the Kobuk River, there is some sand dunes and some river shore to hike a bit, but there are ponds and ponds and ponds all over the place and HEAVY brush so the hiking is very minimal. Gates of the Arctic landing spot is Walker Lake, which is a beautiful deep water mountain lake, so there’s mountains and the lake. There is a small “spit” of land where we taxi our float plane up to, where you can find animal tracks, blueberries (late July & August), and hike a bit.

24. I have a National Park Passport, where can I get my stamp for these two Arctic National Parks?
The Bettles Gates of the Arctic & Kanuti Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center is literally a “stone’s
throw” (but please don’t throw rocks…) from the front steps of the Aurora Lodge. In the past years, they’ve been open 7 days a week, 8 am – 5 pm to welcome folks, talk about this awesome area of our huge state, have your stamps for Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk Valley, Kanuti Wildlife Refuge (you can “collect” or physically contact this one for free… I’ll show you on the Village Van Tour when you arrive) and also Noatak Preserve.

25. Can I buy National Park nick-nacks at the Visitor’s Center?
Yep, they have pamphlets, the NP rubber stamps to mark your passport, and other things for sale in their small “gift shop”.

26. How/where do you get your electricity in Bettles?
AP&T (Alaska Power & Telephone) (APTL stock ticker), supplies commercial, locally generated, diesel fired electricity to Bettles/Evansville and many other remote Alaskan communities across our huge state.

27. How/where do you get telephone service?
AP&T supplies “land line” service, via a telephone “switch” or computer that is attached to the big satellite up-link dish right next to our light green power plant next to the Bettles Field USPS Office (99726).

28. How do you get your mail in Bettles/Evansville?
Wright Air Service delivers the mail and most everything else we need from Fairbanks daily. Not only USPS, but UPS i.e. Amazon, DHL, FedEx, groceries from Fred Meyers and the other grocery stores back in Fairbanks, our sled dog food and more!

29. Where do the kids go to school in Bettles/Evansville?
Well, there is one family that has younger kids and now only 2 of them are school age. No school in Bettles/Evansville for over 20 years now, so Mom & Dad homeschool.

30. Why is there no school in Bettles/Evansville?
Back in the 70s-80s there were many more people living in the community and it was basically all government workers for the FAA, Bureau of Land Management, a much larger NPS compliment than we have now, but over the years, funding was taken away… no funding, no jobs, no families in this quite challenging and expensive place to live.

31. Do we need to bring our own rubber boots to Bettles?
You sure can if you like, but we do have rubber boots to borrow so you can get on and off our float-planes, stepping though a little water, and keep your tootsies dry.  (if you have a size #14, 15 +, you should bring your own footwear), but we do have a size #13.

32. Do your rubber boots go over our shoes? 
No, these are rubber boots, not “galoshes” so in place of your hiking shoes.  You may bring your hiking footwear on our airplane to the NPs if you like.

33. Can we spend one day in each Arctic National Park? 
Yes, of course, but we don’t offer that type of tour.  Our Tour is designed to get your boots on the ground in each Arctic National Park, and then transport you back to Bettles by supper time. (if you’d like something else than we offer, you can do a quick Google search and find other Air Taxis that operate during the summer).

34. What will the weather be like on our tour in to the two Arctic National Parks? 
A Google search will give you the “historical” weather for any place on earth, to get you started, but plan for colder/warmer than “forecasted”.  Always, always, bring your own rain gear, whenever visiting our great state during the warmer months.  Have layers with you just in case, because it’s much better “to have it and not need it, than needing it and not having it!”