Southern Arctic Foothills

The Phillip Smith Mountains are a subdivision of the Brooks Range. The southern Arctic Foothills, below the Antigun Gorge, flank the Smith Mountains and Dalton Highway to the East as it follows the Sagavanirktok River on the North Slope.
One important characteristic of mountain habitats in the eastern Brooks Range is the abundance of limestone which provides the raw material for calcium-rich and relatively alkaline soils that support a characteristic community of vascular plants, lichens, and mosses. This effect can be observed as far north as the Arctic coast, where the calcium-rich soils of the floodplains and deltas of the large rivers draining the eastern Brooks Range may support twice the plant species found in habitats containing acidic tundra soils.
The mountains mellow out past the Brooks Range, yielding to what appears to be an endless expanse of marsh pocked with watery potholes. It’s rugged, beautiful, wide-open country, essentially unchanged since woolly mammoths roamed these steppes. At MP 275 the Dalton Highway leaves the mountains of the Brooks Range and crosses the Southern Arctic Foothills for the next 80 miles. Repeated glaciations have shaped much of the rolling terrain here.

EF 28-70mm @ 70mm; f/11 @ 1/100 sec, -1 EV, ISO 100


What a beautiful scene, @Bob_Faucher. I love wide open areas like this, though I’ve never been here. Thanks for the geology landscape lesson.

Thank you Mark. Although I read a lot about this area before I ventured out, I was still woefully unprepared for how spectacular the North Slope actually is. There were very few good photos to preview.

I have never seen that area so yellow before. We always go in August. What time of the year is it like this?

A great capture of the Brooks Range.

The image was made July 8th, midday—early summer. This far north—well above the Arctic Circle— Spring comes late, Summer is short and Fall comes early. Chlorophyll absorbs light with wavelengths of 430nm(blue) and 662nm(red). It reflects green light strongly so it appears green to us. When there is less red in the sunlight more blue is dominant and the reflected color appears more yellow, an adaptation when the growing season is so short. You may not notice it when viewing live because of “color memory.” Your brain “knows” grass is green so it adjusts to show you what it considers is “correct.” The camera doesn’t suffer from that prejudice.

Bob, The color and sharpness in this image are terrific. Do you live in Alaska? Your description of this image is packed with important and interesting information. We were on the Dalton Highway as far north as the Arctic Circle when we visited Alaska in 2017. Thanks for the image and lesson.

Thank you, Larry, for your kind remarks. I do not live in Alaska. However, I spent three months there—July through September—in 2015, driving every road I could find, and made some excursions off-road, covering about 10,000 miles. It is VAST!