Alaska Small Business Development Center

Onion Portage Alaska

Onion Portage Alaska: Adventures in the Arctic

In 2014, Tristen Pattee recognized the lack of tourism in the Native village of Ambler, AK. Inspired by an idea to highlight the striking beauty of his home in Northwest Alaska and create local job opportunities, he got to work on a business plan and began purchasing assets for a fully inclusive guided backcountry and river business.

Those assets impressively ranged from a boat, kayaks, rafts, tents, and an ATCO trailer converted into two apartments. Building on this strong foundation of intentional planning, Pattee acquired his Merchant Mariner license (Six-Pack License) in 2019 and offered his first guided trips for Onion Portage Alaska.

With just beginning to operate, the impact of COVID-19 was felt hard but also allowed Pattee to prioritize the year ahead by adding two boats to the businesses’ assets and focusing on building cabins and dome-style buildings on his property in Ambler to enhance what Onion Portage Alaska has to offer.

The domes are an addition that Pattee is looking forward to. He explained, “The domes will have clear panels on the roof that are see-through and you can comfortably lay in your bed as you watch the northern lights or just view the sky and stars.” In addition to private dwellings, Pattee is looking forward to providing boat tours between Ambler and Noorvik (both Iñupiat towns in Alaska).

The intention, he explained, is to provide his clients with a glimpse into authentic cultural activities on the Kobuk River and experience the Alaska Native communities in a unique setting.

In navigating business ownership during the pandemic, Pattee worked with Alaska SBDC Rural Center Director, Jennifer Adams on staying aware of funding relief opportunities, changing mandates, and local impact.

Meanwhile, preparation for the Onion Portage Adventures expansion has not ceased. Pattee worked with his Business Advisor on restructuring the business successfully, accessing and applying relevant research to his business plan, and identifying partnerships and opportunities for the businesses’ growth strategy.

Of this he explained, “Without her help, that feat would be much more difficult. The research and also the processes that my partner and I thought were large obstacles seem simple for her. I am very appreciative of the assistance she has provided and look forward to working with her much more in the future!”

To experience the beauty and wonder of Northwest Alaska for yourself, connect with Onion Portage Alaska to plan your once-in-a-lifetime Arctic adventure at

You can also connect on Facebook and Instagram, or call 907-445-5195!