The Pilgrim River crossing brings you close to groves of cottonwood that are abundant in this section of the valley. The presence of warmer soils associated with ground water springs contributes to the growth of deciduous trees. A lower under story of tall, dense willow and alder attracts birds that are similar to those found at Pilgrim Hot Springs and often associated with boreal habitats.
Descending into terrain increasingly dominated by trees and willows, you are more likely to see a moose than a muskox. In late summer grizzlies feed on spawning chum salmon below the Fox River bridge. Salmon carcasses also attract red fox, gulls, and common ravens. Both abandoned and active beaver lodges and dams are found along the Fox River drainage. Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, and chum and pink salmon can be seen from the bridge. Downstream, the narrow, swift-flowing river is hemmed in by dense vegetation. Spotted sandpiper may be seen on a sand bar on the east side of the road and belted kingfisher burrow into the riverbanks to nest.
The Snake River has a relatively short drainage that flows out of the south side of the Kigluaik Mountains. The bridge crossing is typical of the wide, vegetated valley with tall, dense willows growing along the banks of a narrow, swift- flowing river. The broad riparian habitat supports some of the highest densities of moose along the Nome road system.
A small parking area at the highest point is an excellent place to pull off the road safely and explore the alpine tundra. On a clear day this high point offers sweeping views of Norton Sound to the southeast and the westernmost boreal forest to the north. The open country can be a good place to spot moose, muskox, or grizzlies. Caribou, normally present in winter, are sometimes seen in summer too. You are more likely to see reindeer, however, which are distinguished by their pinto coloration, short legs, and the occasional ear tag.
This high point in the road gives you an excellent view across the valley. Three ditch lines from earlier mining activities are apparent on the far side of the valley, especially where they cross the exposed rock face of Cape Horn. The ditches originate near Hudson Creek about 12 miles upstream. Today these deep, wide gashes on the hillside offer cover and easier movement for wildlife—especially moose and grizzly bears.
River crossing warning! Unlike other braided rivers along the road system, the Niukluk River flows along a single broad channel. A large colony of cliff swallow inhabits the cliff banks downstream while tree swallow nest in aspen cavities and nest boxes put up by Council residents. Osprey, which nest down- stream, may be spotted flying over the river. Bald eagle are also associated with the river and nest at the Fish River confluence