Kobuk Valley

Kobuk Valley, which is located several miles north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, was declared a nature reserve in the late twentieth century, but it has been a historically important area for humans as well as animals. Although it is smaller than the two other national parks in the area, Gates of the Arctic and Wrangell-St Elias, Kobuk Valley National Park has some of the most unique landscapes found in Alaska. It offers plenty of breathtaking vistas, exquisite settings drawn out by nature, and an abundance of activities for every visitor, from hiking the sand dunes and forests to fishing the teeming rivers and waterways.

For at least the past 12,000 years, human civilizations have lived on this unforgiving arctic land, using it as a base for hunting. One of the most archaeologically important sites in Kobuk Valley National Park is the Onion Portage, along the Kobuk River, where artifacts from more than 70 distinct cultures have been unearthed. More recent discoveries have confirmed human activity in other areas along the river and in the mountain pass between Kobuk and Noatak Valley. In addition to human activity, ancient fossils of Ice Age animals have been preserved in this region.

The large masses of caribou, among other wildlife, that pass through this area have been the main attraction in Kobuk Valley for most civilizations throughout history. Today, Kobuk Alaska is still renowned for the herds of caribou that continue to traverse the ancient valley. In addition to the caribou, visitors might also spot grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, beavers, hares, and a variety of other animals that call the Kobuk Valley National Park home.

Among the most remarkable geological features of the park are the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and what makes these dunes so notable is their arctic location. The summer temperatures at this dune field, which covers 25 square miles and rise up to 100 feet, can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, despite being located 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle. By hiking about one mile along the Kavet Creek from the Kobuk River, trekkers can reach the sand dunes, which is sure to be a marvelous experience.

The various types of activities that take place in Kobuk Alaska include boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and even skiing and dog sledding in certain areas during the winter months. Visitors should keep in mind that the Kobuk Valley maintains no established facilities for activities and guests, so equipment must be supplied by the visitor, and advanced activities, such as skiing and sledding, should only be undertaken if you are experienced yourself or have an experienced guide to supervise you.

There are no fees for entering the park or camping, and no reservations are required for those planning to set up camp. There are also community and cultural programs offered at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, providing information and activities relating to the history and research that goes on in the Kobuk Valley National Park. From delving into history to simply enjoying the scenery to exploring the challenging landscape, guests of Kobuk Alaska will find tons of interesting sights and excursions that will make a visit to the park an undertaking to remember for years to come.

Image: NPSphoto
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