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Bettles

Kk’odlel T’odegheelenh Denh
Aerial view of Bettles (right) and its neighbor Evansville (left)
Aerial view of Bettles (right) and its neighbor Evansville (left)
Location in Alaska
Location in Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Yukon-Koyukuk
Incorporated December 20, 1985
Area
 • Total 1.59 sq mi (4.12 km2)
 • Land 1.56 sq mi (4.05 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.07 km2)  0%
Elevation
630 ft (200 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 23
 • Density 14.70/sq mi (5.67/km2)
Time zone UTC−9 (Alaska (AKST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−8 (AKDT)
ZIP code
99726
Area code 907 Exchange: 692
FIPS code 02-06630
GNIS feature ID 1926949

Bettles (Kk’odlel T’odegheelenh Denh in Koyukon) is a city in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska, United States. It is near Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The population was 23 at the 2020 census, up from 12 in 2010. It is the second smallest incorporated city in the state.

History

The city was founded in 1896 during the Alaska Gold Rush. The airstrip that serves the community was built in World War II and is now used for commercial air service. The Hickel Highway was used to transport equipment and supplies to the North Slope for oil exploration, and to build the Dalton Highway, which is now used as a truck route to the oilfields.

Demographics

The demographics of Bettles was Native Alaskan, 32.4%, Non-Hispanic White, 45.4%, Black-African American 0.2%, Hispanic of any race, 0.5%, Native Hawaiian-Pacific Islander 0.1%

Geography

Bettles is located on the southeast bank of the Koyukuk River at 66°54′48″N 151°31′21″W / 66.91333°N 151.52250°W / 66.91333; -151.52250 (66.913419, −151.522374). The city is on the former Hickel Highway, that now connects to the Dalton Highway as a winter ice road only and crosses the Jim River (Alaska). Bettles is 35 miles (56 km) north of the Arctic Circle just south of the Brooks Range. The city is also served by a 5,190-foot (1,580 m) gravel airstrip built by the military.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km2), all of it land.

Climate

As is typical of the Alaska Interior, Bettles experiences a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc) with very long, frigid winters and short, warm summers, and is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 1, indicating the coldest temperature of the year is typically at or below −50 °F (−45.6 °C). Temperatures usually remain consistently below freezing from late October to late March, and the bulk of the year’s snow occurs from October to April, with generally light accumulations in May and September; the average annual snowfall stands at 91 inches (2.31 m). In summer, temperatures reach 70 °F (21.1 °C) on 37 days and 80 °F (26.7 °C) on 6.4, with an average of 1 night not falling below 60 °F (15.6 °C). The threat of frost usually begins in late August, but sometimes it can happen during the first half of that month. A majority of the annual precipitation of 14.9 inches (378 mm) occurs during summer as well. Extreme temperatures have ranged from −70 °F (−56.7 °C) up to 93 °F (33.9 °C).

Climate data for Bettles, Alaska (1981−2010 normals, extremes 1944−present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 42
(5.6)
40
(4.4)
49
(9.4)
66
(18.9)
86
(30)
92
(33.3)
93
(33.9)
88
(31.1)
79
(26.1)
57
(13.9)
45
(7.2)
38
(3.3)
93
(33.9)
Average high °F (°C) −2.2
(-19)
4.5
(-15.28)
16.7
(-8.5)
34.3
(1.28)
54.6
(12.56)
69.3
(20.72)
69.8
(21)
62.1
(16.72)
48.9
(9.39)
25.6
(-3.56)
6.0
(-14.44)
1.9
(-16.72)
32.8
(0.44)
Average low °F (°C) −17.9
(-27.72)
−14.5
(-25.83)
−8.0
(-22.2)
12.3
(-10.94)
34.2
(1.22)
47.6
(8.67)
49.6
(9.78)
42.9
(6.06)
32.3
(0.17)
12.1
(-11.06)
−8.1
(-22.28)
−13.4
(-25.22)
14.2
(-9.89)
Record low °F (°C) −70
(-56.7)
−64
(-53.3)
−56
(-48.9)
−37
(-38.3)
−10
(-23.3)
27
(-2.8)
29
(-1.7)
15
(-9.4)
−11
(-23.9)
−35
(-37.2)
−57
(-49.4)
−60
(-51.1)
−70
(-56.7)
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.81
(20.6)
0.85
(21.6)
0.58
(14.7)
0.60
(15.2)
0.88
(22.4)
1.40
(35.6)
2.36
(59.9)
2.64
(67.1)
1.91
(48.5)
1.04
(26.4)
0.91
(23.1)
0.92
(23.4)
14.90
(378.5)
Snowfall inches (cm) 13.9
(35.3)
14.0
(35.6)
9.3
(23.6)
6.3
(16)
1.3
(3.3)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
2.5
(6.4)
12.4
(31.5)
16.1
(40.9)
15.6
(39.6)
91.4
(232.2)
Humidity 68.6 67.0 65.3 67.2 60.7 59.8 67.7 75.8 75.6 77.7 73.5 71.7 69.2
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.0 9.0 7.3 6.4 8.3 10.8 13.5 14.6 12.2 12.0 10.6 11.4 125.1
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 10.0 10.3 8.1 5.6 1.2 0 0 0 2.1 11.4 11.5 12.5 72.7
Source: NOAA (relative humidity 1961–1990), Weather.com

Education

The community was previously served by the Bettles Field School of the Yukon–Koyukuk School District.

Transport

Bettles Airport has flights on two commercial airlines; with 27 residents in 2010, Bettles/Evansville is one of the smallest communities served by commercial airlines.

Notable people

  • Aliy Zirkle: sled dog racer
  • Otto W. Geist: explorer

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