Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow) is a city that is 300 miles (480 km) north of the Arctic Circle on the Arctic Ocean in Arctic Alaska. The city holds the distinction of being the northernmost settlement in the United States, and the northernmost settlement on the North American mainland. The residents are primarily of Inupiat descent (Eskimo, though that term in the 21st century is very offensive). Its population in 2019 was a bit more than 4,500 people.
The city is commonly known as Barrow, its official name until a 2016 referendum changed it to the traditional Iñupiat name of Utqiaġvik. It is the administrative and economic center and the largest city in the North Slope Borough, and it functions as a center for Iñupiat culture and for oil extraction. Traditional hunting, fishing, and whaling are an important part of the community.
The city is divided into three sections. The southern section is known as the "Barrow side". The larger, traditionally residential central section is known as "Browerville". The smaller, more isolated northern part is known as "NARL", after the Naval Arctic Research Lab that used to be located there.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate is constantly frigid, with temperatures averaging slightly above freezing only in July and August.
Precipitation is low year-round and, in a sense, Utqiagvik is in the middle of an "ice desert", despite being located right next to the Arctic Ocean.
The midnight sun can be seen from mid-May to late-July. There is polar night from late November to late January, with twilight only for a few hours from late morning until mid-afternoon.
There are no roads or rails into town. Considering the climate and extreme remoteness of the place, none of this is likely to change any time soon. The only way to travel to Utqiagvik is by plane, although there is an annual summer barge service to send and receive large heavy items such as vehicles, building supplies, and heavy equipment.
- 1 Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport (BRW IATA) (directly south of the city, walking distance from some of the hotels and a few of the restaurants).
- Alaska Airlines[dead link] offers several daily flights from Anchorage, Deadhorse, Fairbanks.
- Ravn Alaska (formerly Era Airlines, Frontier Flying Service, and before that Cape Smythe Air) from the surrounding villages of Atqasuk, Nuiqsut, Point Lay and Wainwright remaon suspended as of March 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. You should try to contact your travel agency, or contact the airline.
Utqiaġvik is very small, and is a flat desert that almost never receives large amounts of snow. So it's easy to get around by foot even in the winter. During the colder months, you can walk directly across the frozen freshwater lagoons. Just bundle up and beware of the wind chill! In "early winter", be careful and ask locals if the lagoons are really totally frozen over yet before you walk on them.
There are several cab companies in town. They are always driving about, and they can be flagged down easily or called by phone for almost immediate pickup. Rates vary between $5 and $9 around Utqiaġvik proper and Browerville. Within town, they are supposed to charge a $6 fixed rate per one-way trip. To go to Point Barrow or to the lake south of town to see the night sky, it is about $50 per hour.
- 2 UIC Car Rental, 1764 Ahkovak St (near the Utqiaġvik Airport), ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-noon, 1-5PM. Provides car rentals but availability can be limited during peak times. Gasoline can also be very expensive (at least for American tastes), as the price is set only once per year.
The city bus runs M-F 7AM–7PM and can be a good option for daily commutes. Visitors, however, will probably be happier taking cabs due to the convenience, as well as the fact that cab fare for a group of 2 or more people will end up costing less money because the bus charges per person.
- Fresh water lake
- 1 Iñupiat Heritage Center, 5421 North Star St., ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-5PM. A museum with many fascinating Iñupiat displays and artifacts.
- NARL / DEW line relics
- Palm trees at shooting station
- 2 Point Barrow (Nuvuk). The northernmost point in the United States.
- Satcom Array
- Joe's Museum, ☏ . By appt. Native art and taxidermy interspersed (very appealingly) with artifacts from the proprietor's bachelor-pad life in the 1980s, and anything else you could think of.
- Bird watch. You can use the bird list from the King Eider Inn.
- 1 Tundra Tours Inc., 1200 Agvik St, ☏ .
Also, see the listing of Airport Inn - Lodging & Tours in the "Sleep" section.
Expect everything, such as groceries, supplies, and restaurant food, to cost 2 to 5 times more in Utqiagvik than they would in Anchorage or the lower 48, because most things can only be brought in by air freight.
There are some decent restaurants in the Utqiaġvik/Browerville area. Expect to pay $20-30 per meal at most restaurants.
- 1 Arctic Pizza, 125 Apayauq St, ☏ . Great pizza with fresh toppings, and other cuisines.
- 2 East Coast Pizzeria, 507 Kongosak St (on the corner of Ogrook and Kongosak), ☏ . Pizza, philly cheesesteaks, salads, and spaghetti.
- 3 Northern Lights Restaurant, 5122 Herman St (Browerville), ☏ . A very comfortable, clean dining room operated by a charming family. Their menu goes on and on, with the owner's own Chinese food, plus deli selections and burgers, and great pizza.
- 4 Osaka Restaurant, 980 Stevenson St, ☏ . Cozy, homey atmosphere, very decent teriyaki and other Japanese favorites.
- 5 Sam and Lee's Chinese Restaurant, Kogiak St (near Cunningham). Friendly service, lunch buffet M-F of dishes from various Asian cuisines, and a few "American" options, for under $20 (as of 2017.)
- 1 Aarigaa Java, Laura Madison St (at Brower St). Espresso bar
- 1 King Eider Inn, 1752 Ahkovak St, ☏ .
- 2 Top of the World Hotel, 3060 Eben Hopson St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Latitude 71 Bed and Breakfast, 5725 B St (corner of B St. and Transit), ☏ , , email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. A comfortable and elegant alternative to the average hotel rooms in town. $175 single room and up.