Glacial Lake Noatak formed repeatedly during middle and late Pleistocene time as expanding glaciers from the DeLong Mountains blocked the Noatak River valley. Downcutting by the Noatak River has exposed thick sediment successions in bluffs up to 86 m high. Two river bluffs, Nk-26 and Nk-29A, contain correlative organic-rich flood-plain deposits that were formed during and after deposition of the Old Crow tephra at about the transition between oxygen isotope stage 6 and oxygen isotope stage 5, at the beginning of the last interglaciation. Both bluffs also contain older interglacial or interstadial flood-plain deposits of uncertain age.
Pollen and beetle remains were recovered from the older and younger flood-plain deposits at each bluff. Pollen from the younger flood-plain deposits suggests tundra vegetation with local dominance of sedge. Juniperus abundances were locally high, especially around the time of Old Crow tephra deposition. Mutual climatic range (MCR) estimates from the insect fossil assemblages suggest that mean summer temperatures (Tmax) near the time of Old Crow tephra deposition were about 2 °C colder than modern; mean winter temperatures were very similar to those of today. A younger sample from the same interglacial deposit yielded a Tmax estimate of 2 °C warmer than modern, signaling interglacial warming. Pollen from the older interglacial deposit at Nk-29A suggests mesic tundra, with boreal forest more distant than it is today. MCR analysis of a possibly correlative older interglacial deposit at Nk-26 suggests a Tmax about 2 °C below present.