Noatak is located on the west bank of the 396-mile long Noatak River, a few miles west of the 66-million acre Noatak National Preserve. Noatak is 55 air miles north of Kotzebue and 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The Noatak area has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years. The village of Noatak was founded in the 1890s when Friends Church missionaries asked families living in sod houses in various settlements along the Noatak River to establish a permanent community where the Friends Church would build a school and place of worship. Elders selected the current site of Noatak, which at the time was a seasonal hunting and fishing campsite, because of its strategic location for access to various camp sites, its ready supply of wood for heating, its fishing productivity and its year-round hunting and trapping. The first airplanes to land in Noatak arrived in the late 1920s. A post office was established in 1940.
Most Noatak residents are descended from three distinct groups of Iñupiaq Eskimos who came together to populate the village in the 1890s: the Nautaugmiut, which translates into English as “inland river people,” the Napaaqtugmiut, or “tree people,” and the Nunamiut, or “treeless land people.” The two main groups diverged for much of the year, some heading upriver, with the caribou, and others staying in the forest, and all gathered on the coast, in spring, to hunt seals and beluga.
The population of Noatak increased steadily from about 100 residents in 1900 to 336 residents in 1940. Its population declined from 1940 to 1960, when the census recorded 275 people living in Noatak. After 1960 the population began to rise again. From 1990 to 2000 the population of Noatak went from 333 to 428, the greatest single-decade increase in the history of the village. The current population of Noatak is around 514. 94.7% of Noatak residents are Iñupiaq Eskimos.
Noatak is an unincorporated community. The Native Village of Noatak (IRA) governs the village.
CLIMATE AND TOPOGRAPHY
Winter temperatures in Noatak generally range from 21 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) to 15 degrees above. Summer temperatures average 40 to 60 degrees. Temperature extremes have been recorded from 59 degrees below zero to 75 degrees above. The yearly snowfall in Noatak averages 48 inches, rainfall around 12 inches. The Noatak River is navigable by shallow-draft boats from early June to early October.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND FACILITIES
Air – Noatak is primarily accessed by air. Passenger, cargo and private aircraft pilots utilize a 4,000 long by 60’ wide lighted gravel runway that is one of 256 airports owned and by State of Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, the largest aviation system in North America. Multiple scheduled passenger flights depart for Kotzebue daily. A round-trip ticket from Noatak to Kotzebue costs about $280. Air cargo rates from Kotzebue range from 90 cents per pound for loads exceeding 5,000 pounds to $1.10 per pound for loads weighing fewer than 500 pounds.
Land – Depending on the season, residents travel overland to other villages and for subsistence activities using ATVs, motorcycles, snowmachines and dogsleds on a wide array of historic and more blazed trails paralleling the Noatak River.
Water/Marine – The Noatak River is too shallow to allow barge service to the village. Small boats are commonly used for recreation as well as subsistence hunting and fishing.
Northland Services estimates the following costs for delivery of these sample shipments:
Dry Groceries/ cubic foot
Dry Groceries/per 100 lbs.
1 – Auto rate based on auto not exceeding 19’x84”x90” (LxWxH)
2 – Household goods rate based on 20’ container, shipper load count and secure minimum weight of 10,000 lbs.
3 – Groceries estimated as 1 pallet (4'Lx4'Wx4'H) weighing 1500 lbs.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES
Water – The public water supply for Noatak is pumped from wells to a holding tank located north of the airport on Main Street, where the water is treated and then distributed throughout the community via a piped, re-circulating system connected to around 85 homes along with the school, health clinic and businesses. The remaining 20 or so households haul water from the Noatak River and/or from neighboring houses.
Sewer – All homes connected to the public water system are likewise connected to a gravity sewer system that channels wastewater to a holding lagoon outside of town. The other 20 or so households utilize honeybuckets.
Solid Waste Disposal – Noatak residents individually haul refuse to a public landfill located west of the airport, about a half mile outside of town.
Public Safety – Noatak is within the jurisdiction of the Alaska State Troopers detachment based in Kotzebue.
OTHER SERVICES AND UTILITIES
Health Services – Maniilaq Assocation operates a health clinic in Noatak that has three exam rooms, a pharmacy, an eye exam room and a dental exam room. Six certified health aides provide routine medical examinations and treatment for minor health issues on a daily basis. Health care emergencies and treatment for serious health issues requires medi-vac by plane to Kotzebue.
Electricity – The Alaska Village Electric Co-Op provides electricity to Noatak via diesel generation with a peak operating capacity of 982 kilowatts. Electricity rates in Noatak are by far the most expensive in Northwest Alaska, due to diesel fuel shipping rates. Monthly residential rates factoring in the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) subsidy are $0.2317 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-500 kWh, $0.8743 per kilowatt-hour for 501-700 kWh per month and $0.7743 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700. Small commercial rates are $0.8743 per kilowatt - hour for the first 1-700 kWh per month and $0.7743 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh thereafter.
Telecommunications – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides in-state telephone service to Noatak residents and businesses, and long-distance service is provided through a combination of AT&T, Anchorage-based GCI and Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone. Internet service is provided through Inutek.net, a cooperative effort between OTZ, Maniilaq Association and Anchorage-based GCI Communications.
|Basic local service (single landline) - Includes taxes, fees. Additional charges for optional features||
Access Line/Residential: $16.55
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $6.50
Inside Wire Charge: $1.60
Universal Single Line: $0.01
Federal Tax: 3%
Business Phone (Access) Line: $24.50
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $9.20
Inside Wire Charge: $2.25
Universal Single Line: $0.20
Local Tax: 6%
Federal Tax: 3%
|Long distance||$.07/minute + $5 monthly fee||$.09/minute no monthly charge|
|Cellular phone service||OTZ cell service does not work in Noatak. (GCI cell service does)|
64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
|*Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.|
Noatak has a combined elementary, middle and high school facility attended by around 180 students per year. The current school was completed in 2009.
Most Noatak residents use CB/VHF radio systems for communication within the village as well as seasonal campsites surrounding the village and other communities within a 100-120 mile signal range (Deering, Kiana, Kivalina, Kotzebue, Noorvik and Selawik). The primary formal source of news and community information in Noatak is Kotzebue-based KOTZ radio. The Arctic Sounder, a regional newspaper, is delivered to local subscribers, businesses and the school.
The Noatak economy is based on traditional subsistence activities. Important food sources include moose, caribou, salmon, ptarmigan, rabbit and waterfowl. Full-time employers include the tribe, Maniilaq Association and a handful of retail stores. Around 25 residents work full or part-time at Red Dog Mine. Seven residents have commercial fishing permits.
There are 122 residential structures in Noatak, including ten small apartment buildings. One hundred and six of the structures are occupied. The rest are dilapidated log cabins. The median home value in Noatak is $106,300. The median rent is $779. The average family household size is 4.51 persons.