The History of Bettles

Bettles is located about 180 air miles and 250 road miles northwest of Fairbanks, adjacent to Evansville. It lies just north of the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. The John River is one mile northeast of Bettles. It lies at approximately 66 54' N Latitude, 151 41' W Longitude (Sec. 16, T024N, R019W, Fairbanks Meridian). The community is located in the Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 2 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.

Several Native groups have lived in the area, including Koyukon Athabascans and Kobuk, Selawik, and Nunamiut Eskimos from the north and northwest. The Koyukon lived in several camps throughout the year, moving as the seasons changed, following the wild game and fish. "Old Bettles," located 7 miles from the present community, was named for Gordon Bettles, who opened a trading post during the 1899 gold rush. Old Bettles was the northern terminal of the Koyukuk River barge line, and a post office operated there from 1901 to 1956. Today, the new site of Bettles is also known as Bettles Field. The FAA constructed an airfield and communications installation during 1948, and the U.S. Navy used these facilities as a support base for exploring National Petroleum Reserve 4. Work opportunities at Bettles Field attracted both Natives and whites to the new airfield. Wilford Evans, Sr. opened a sawmill at the present site of Evansville and built the Bettles Lodge and General Store. A post office was established at the Bettles Lodge in 1950. A school was constructed in 1956. A health clinic opened in 1980. Bettles incorporated as a City during 1985. The City boundaries do not include the village of Evansville.


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History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development