Noatak, or Nautaaq in Inupiaq, is 55 miles north of Kotzebue and 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It is located on the west bank of the Noatak River, one of the largest “totally unspoiled” rivers in the United States. This is the only settlement on the 400 mile-long Noatak.
The village is primarily Iñupiat Eskimo. Subsistence activities are the central focus of the culture, as many families travel to fish camps at Sheshalik during the summer. Noatak has no official city government, but citizens and the Noatak I.R.A. (Indian Reorganization Act) Council make local decisions. The current population of Noatak is 489.
Noatak was officially established in the 19th century as a fishing and hunting camp, but Native Iñupiat Eskimo have inhabited the area for the past several hundred years. The area’s rich resources enabled the camp to develop into a permanent settlement.
Noatak’s economy based principally on subsistence activities, although other employment options are available. The school district, Maniilaq Association, and four local stores are the major employers of the city. In addition, ten residents hold commercial fishing permits. Others find seasonal work at NANA, the Red Dog Mine, or one of several tour companies or fishing and hunting outfits.
Noatak is primarily accessed by air. More than six regional air services provide cargo, mail and passenger services on a regular basis. Small boats, ATVs, and snow machines are used extensively for local transportation. Many historic trails along the Noatak River are important today for inter-village travel and subsistence purposes.
Noatak currently has four general stores, a post office, community hall, and a village clinic operated by Maniilaq Association. Noatak also has a police officer and a volunteer fire department/search and rescue. The Alaska National Guard has a small armory and post in the city. Water is taken from the Noatak River and treated. A piped, re-circulating water and sewer distribution system has the capability to serve 90% of homes in Noatak, however over half of the homes cannot use the service due to lack of plumbing. The village has requested funding to upgrade and add plumbing facilities where necessary, and to construct a community washeteria. A new landfill has recently been opened west of the airport