The Bush Sights


Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk Valley National Park Review

Kobuk Valley National Park lies entirely north of the Arctic Circle, along the southern edge of the Brooks Range. Its 1.14 million acres contain remarkable inland deserts and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes that stand up to 100 feet high and cover 25 square mi. These are home to interesting relict (remnants of otherwise extinct) flora. The park is bisected by the west-flowing Kobuk River, a 347-mi-long stream born in the foothills of the western Brooks Range. The Kobuk, whose native name means "big river," has been a major transportation and trade route for centuries. Besides the Kobuk, this park contains two smaller streams that provide delightful river running: the Ambler and the Salmon. These brilliantly clear rivers are accessible by wheeled plane, and each provides a good week's worth of pleasure (if the weather cooperates).

Another place of special interest is the Onion Portage. Human occupation here dates back 12,500 years, back to a time when Asia and North America were still connected by the Bering Land Bridge, and the region is rich in archaeological history; herds of caribou that fed the Woodland Eskimo centuries ago are still hunted at Onion Portage by present-day Eskimo residents of the region.

Like most other remote Alaska parks, Kobuk Valley National Park is undeveloped wilderness with no visitor facilities. If you come prepared, it can be a good place for backpacking and river trips. In nearby Kotzebue the National Park Service has a visitor center where staff can provide tips for travel into the park. The villages of Kobuk and Kiana both provide immediate take-off points and have air service.

Updated: 06-12-2013

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