Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ'S)

FAQs 
Frequently Asked Questions about Bettles Lodge, Birchwood Aircraft Services, “National Park Collector Wilderness Adventure”, Aurora Viewing, lodging packages and more!

NOTE: all pricing and terms are subject to change.

I’m having trouble getting through/receiving a response, what is the best way to contact Bettles Lodge?

Were a very small venue, literally a “Mom & Pop run shop” more like a big B&B situation, where the Owner meets all Guests at the airplane to welcome you to the Arctic in Bettles and helps handle luggage and incoming mail, freight, etc.  The Owner’s (Eric & Heather Fox) are also the reservations staff, Guest greeters, luggage handlers, Chefs (if needed), tour guide, boat Captain (in summer)/snow machine Guide in winter, and many other things here in our tiny community of only 14 full time residents in Bettles.  I can’t always get right back to your inquiry, so if you don’t hear from us in a few days, please email directly and we’ll get an email string going, and get you up here to our Arctic Paradise! 🙂 info@BettlesLodge.com is our one and only email.  the phone numbers work too, but only during business hours (AKST/-8 GMT or AKDT/ -9 GMT), and we’ll eventually have an email string to track your Arctic Adventure here in Bettles.

What is included in the lodging package, aka summer “Arctic Circle Tour Package”/summer “Aurora Season, Arctic Circle Tour Package”& winter “Arctic Circle/Northern Lights Tour Package”?

These are all dependent on the date of your visit, summer vs winter, as we are a year-round Lodge & FBO on Bettles Airport, , but all packages include #1. R/T Air Transportation that we set up for you.

Also included: Lodging  of course, meals, snacks, soft drinks & village tour, then, depending on time of year and your needs, in winter: parkas, snow pants, heavy “bunny boots” or Sorel brand boots, gloves, mitts, ski goggles, etc.  summer: rubber boots to get on and back off our float plane (if the add-on “National Park Collector Wilderness Adventure” add-on, is booked) or just for exploring around Bettles/Evansville in the warmer months, as everything is either gravel, or squishy wet, peat moss bog in this part of Alaska.  All taxes/fees are also included with any pricing, and all per person.

I want to actually walk around in both Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley, is this possible?

Yep, this is what we specialize in during the summer months, starting around June 5th and ending around the last week in September.  Our “National Park Collector Wilderness Adventure” is designed to get up to 5 adults traveling separately/couples, or a group of 6 traveling together, weighing up to 1,100 lbs per day.  This Adventure covers over 400 air miles and includes a landing in both Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic National Parks in our De Havilland (DHC-2) floatplane, time on the ground, sack lunch, headset for each passenger, use of our rubber boots to climb on to and off of the floats of our aircraft.

 Is R/T air transportation included in the package price?
Yep, (Fairbanks-Bettles-Fairbanks) and it’s actually listed as the first inclusion, on the package inclusions list ;-).

Can’t I just drive to Bettles from Fairbanks?

Please do NOT attempt this!  #1 the Dalton “highway” is NOT a highway…. this is a very Arduous (notice the capital A?) remote, dangerous, rough, country road with no cell coverage, no wrecker service, just a couple of fuel stations (that may, or may not have fuel…) for several hundred miles of partially paved and partially gravel road that eventually dead-ends at Deadhorse and the north coast of Alaska.  There are crosses on BOTH sides of this road, and if you talk to the Ice Road Truckers, they say that  ain’t the half of the folks that have died on this “highway”…  Once you get to the unmarked “winter access only trail” (220 mi north of Fairbanks)  then you go off road… no pavement, no steel bridges across 60 or so water features (i.e. 2 major rivers, 10 streams, many ponds, sloughs & ponds & ponds with no steel bridges, we make ice bridges during the winter) for the next 30 miles in to Bettles.  Most rental car companies forbid (with satellite tracking on their vehicles) use of the extremely rough Dalton, Steese, and other roads in our great state.  No access for most of the year on the ground to Bettles.  Please call to talk to Owner Eric Fox, for more explanation if needed.

Can I take the Alaska Railroad to Bettles?

Nope, the furthest north the train goes is Fairbanks, and that’s still 180 miles (by air) south east of Bettles.

How long have the current owners, owned Bettles Lodge?

Heather & Eric Fox purchased the Lodge business from Lynda Klaes, July 1st 2014, and have been LOVING life ever since! 🙂

Will someone meet us in Fairbanks to “pick us up” for our flight to Bettles?

Nope, we’re located 180 Air Miles northwest of Fairbanks, so you’ll need to make your own way over to the “East Ramp” of the Fairbanks Airport, with your hotel shuttle, Taxi/Lyft/Uber to check in for your flight to Bettles.  We’ll make your R/T Air arrangements up from Fairbanks to Bettles (and back), and will let you know what those are, about 2 weeks from your arrival date in Bettles.  We use several different “tools” to move everything we need up from and back to Fairbanks.

NOTE: no food, lodging, transportation in Fairbanks is included in your package price, as we’re located in Bettles.  All Guests should plan to check-in as early as 07:30 (am) for their flight northbound, and also prepare for ETA back in Fairbanks as late as 6 pm on the day of your departure from Bettles.

Just like any other airport on the planet, Mother Nature can and occasionally does delay/cancel flights.  We strongly advise that you do your own research, and purchase both travel & medevac insurance, whenever traveling to remote locations like the Arctic Bush of Alaska where we’re located. 

Can I combine the 10% military discount, with a group of 5 or more 10% discount, with a stay of 6 nights or more 10% discount?

Nope, one discount offer per booking.

Can I order off a “menu” once I arrive in the Arctic Bush of Alaska in Bettles?

Nope… we are 180 Air Miles from the nearest Walmart, Costco, Fred Meyers, Safeway, or any other food supplier, who do exist in Fairbanks, but not here.  We have what we have on site, at the moment, and do run out of things routinely, due to shopping/delivery/flight delays (our Awesome “expediter” that lives in Fairbanks), shipping delays (Wright Air Service brings us everything we need up from, and back to Fairbanks, including groceries, spark plugs for my snow machines, sled dog food, and everything else we use here in Bettles).  Everything is limited in remote places, and what we have, is what we have… 😉

Can I switch rooms once I arrive in Bettles to increase the number of nights I can stay?

Nope, it creates a housekeeping nightmare, and sometimes we’re 100% booked so no where to move anyway and/or no seats available with a last minute flight change on the very limited Air Transportation available, all based out of Fairbanks.

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.

 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 in our Jacuzzi rooms, showers are in the common bathrooms, just a step down the hall.

How much luggage can I bring on the aircraft (usually a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan) up to Bettles?

These aircraft are configured to hold up to 9 passengers + Pilot and like all aircraft, are limited on how much weight they can lift.  40 lbs /19 kg (per person) is included in your R/T Air Transportation, and if you have to bring more than that, you will be paying $1.80/lb over 40 lbs per person.  We always advise you check with your hotel in Fairbanks for luggage storage service, and repack only what you’ll need for your short visit to Bettles in a backpack or other soft sided luggage for ease of packing in the smaller aircraft.

What time will my flight leave Fairbanks to fly up to Bettles?

Check-in time is the important time to pay attention to, for your flight up to Bettles.  You’ll check-in and drop your luggage about an hour and a half before scheduled departure time, and check-in may be as early as 07:30 (am) or as late as 11:45 (am).  departure from Bettles back to Fairbanks, may be scheduled for a pick-up in Bettles as early as 09:30 (am) or as late as 13:15.  

These flights not only bring our Guests and everything we use here in the Arctic Bush of Alaska, but over 20 other communities all over the state that are Fly-in-Only, daily flight routing depends on particular passenger and freight load on that particular day, also with weather in mind! 😉

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

 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.

 Does the Lodge sell fishing licenses?
Nope, but you can print a non-resident fishing license from home, check-out https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=license.main

 How many hotel rooms does Bettles Lodge have?

Our Aurora Lodge has 8 hotel rooms total, 4 Jacuzzi rooms w/toilet (W/C aka “water closet” aka toilet in a small closet in your room), 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.  The “common/shared” bathrooms each have lockable door, toilet, sink and these are also the only showers (no shower in the Jacuzzi rooms, just a jetted Jacuzzi brand bathtub).

Our Historic Bettles Lodge has 6 Standard rooms up 16 stairs, 5 of these rooms have two Twin beds and one has a Queen bed.  These rooms being Standard, share the two common/shared bathrooms upstairs, each has a lockable door, toilet sink and shower.

 How early in the year can you see Aurora?
We’ve seen the Aurora (very faintly because of ambient light from our star) 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 https://sunrisesunset.com/ 

How late in the season can you see the Aurora?
Usually, April 15th is about the latest to see weak Aurora as once again, the ambient light from our star (aka the sun) starts providing more light every day.  This year 2023 there was an intense geomagnetic storm that was seen even in south Texas on April 23rd 2023! (but not usually, or at least… “historically”…).

 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 (aka 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!

Does Spring Equinox make for much better Aurora?
Not necessarily… the sun may or may not be throwing CME material (sun stuff) 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.

 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.

 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! 🙂

 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.

 Do more nights booked during the warmer months when I have a “National Park Collector Wilderness Adventure” 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, that covers over 400 miles by air, 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.  They will be most likely fully booked as well, and probably also delayed by weather, just like any other airport in the world. 😉

Can I hike to the Greater Sand Dunes in Kobuk Valley National Park on the Adventure?

Nope, not with our Adventure.  We land on Kobuk River, as we operate two float planes.  One being our trusty DHC-2 (De Havilland Beaver), and a smaller Cessna 180-J both on floats for water take offs & landings.  while it is a few miles away from the Greater Dunes, it’d take a whole day of swimming, sloshing through very wet squishy peat moss bog, and then don’t forget impenetrable Alder brush to bushwhack through, in between all this too!

 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!

Can I book more than one Motorboat/Float trip on the Koyukuk River?

One motorboat/float trip is included in your package during the summer months, and only for a stay of 3 nights or more, and also all dependent on river level. Mother Nature is the Boss!  Time constraints, weather, Guest load and more, typically does not let the boat Captain (Eric) allow for more than one jaunt up/down river per day.

Can I book winter season “Flight-see” tours before I arrive in Bettles?

Nope, 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.  Conservative Charter rate of $1,200 per hour, with max 3 passengers ($400/hr per passenger, if 3 passengers are sharing a flight, 2 passengers would cost $600/hr and one would cost $1,200/hr)

Are there signs where I can take my/our picture in the Arctic National Parks? (Summer N.P.C.W.A. season)
Nope,  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!

 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 won’t be the first visitors there, and definitely won’t be the last!

 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…

The only shelter from the weather will be the rain gear on your back, and the aircraft that brought you. 😉

 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.

 Can I hike in the Arctic National Parks?
Yes, BUT… Where we land on the Kobuk River, there is some exposed sand dune 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.

 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 stamp.

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

 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.

 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).

 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/Amazon, DHL, FedEx, groceries from Fred Meyers and the other grocery stores back in Fairbanks, our sled dog food and more!

How do you get groceries, spark plugs, plumbing repair pieces and everything else you need to maintain your property, from stores?

all our supplies/groceries/bottled water, etc… must be flown in, as there are no roads to Bettles, only a “Winter Access Only Trail” meaning the only time you can drive in, is during the winter, after we have constructed from scratch, our “Ice Road”.  Look up/Google search (Bettles Ice Road Truckers) to get some idea.  It’s a 500 mile round trip to the Walmart/Costco/Fred Meyers/Safeway/Hospital, etc… in Fairbanks, from Bettles.

 Where do the kids go to school in Bettles/Evansville?
Well, there is one family that has 4 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.

 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, etc… also 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.

 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  15+, you should bring your own footwear), but we do have a size #13,#14, #15.

 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.

 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).

 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!”

 Is Bettles Lodge handicap accessible?  

Nope, because…To get to Bettles, you’ll first have to be able to climb 4 stairs in to the C208 Grand Caravan (find on Google), be able to thread your way through a VERY narrow “isle” between freight, dog kennels, who knows what, to get to your seat.  Once on the ground in Bettles, you’ll need to climb down the stairs to gravel, muddy conditions in Summer, or snow everywhere in Winter.  We do not have wheel chair ramps, grab bars, etc… AND we are located 180 air-miles northwest of the nearest doctors and hospital, back in Fairbanks.

 Are Guest’s pets allowed?  

Nope, we do not allow pets/service animals in our Lodge.  We are a very small intimate setting, cater to visitors from all over the planet, and some folks are scared/offended by pets.  If you must bring a pet/service animal, you’ll need to stay somewhere else besides Bettles Lodge.

 What are the food choices at Bettles Lodge?

We offer a “Chef’s Choice” menu.  Breakfast is eggs your way, hashbrown potatoes, Jimmy Dean pork sausage, bacon, and/or Alaskan Sausage with Reindeer meat (don’t worry, it’s not Rudolf… ;-))  Pancakes, toast with butter, cold cereal, oatmeal, any or all of the above included for our Package Guests or $25/plate for walk-in customers.

Lunch is typically homemade soup of the day and bread $25 for Walk-ins

Supper, we rotate through hand cut steak or prime rib, Sockeye Salmon, chicken, hand cut pork loin chop or pork loin roast, with starch, veg and dessert.  Walk-in Supper price; $45 pork/chicken, $55 Sockeye Salmon, $75 Beef

All meals, snacks, soft-drinks are included in your package price! 🙂

Please let us know if you have any food allergies or strong food aversions, and we’ll do our best to not let anyone go hungry! 🙂

 Is a deposit required?

Yep, we require a 50% deposit of your Adventure with us at the time of booking, then the remainder is due one month before you arrive in Bettles.

 How much tax & extra fees will I owe, over the stated per person pricing?

NONE! 🙂  All our pricing is per person, and includes all taxes, fees, etc… Nothing hidden 🙂

What if weather at Sea-Tac (or any other airport in the world), cancels or delays our flight, and we can’t connect with the flight up to Bettles?

No refunds due to weather, or other airline’s mechanical/Pilot issues.  We urge our Guests to do your own research, and find both travel and medevac insurances that’ll work for you, whenever traveling to any remote locations, like the Arctic Bush of Alaska, where we are located.

If weather cancels your flight Adventure into the two Arctic National Parks (with us, summer season), we have a form letter you can submit to your travel insurance company. 🙂  If weather delays/cancels your Air Transportation up to Bettles from Fairbanks, we can also provide a letter stating that situation, you can give to your travel insurance provider too, just make sure to request a letter for your insurance, if desired before departing Bettles or asap from the event.