Kobuk Valley National Park
Located: Alaska - Established: December 2, 1980
The Park: As bizarre as this may seem, Kobuk Valley is the site of the Great Kobuk, Little Kobuk and the Hunt River Sand Dunes! Twenty-five square miles of southern Kobuk Valley National Park hosts a series of lofty dunes that were created when ancient glaciers ground the local rocks into small sand particles. The dunes, up to 150 feet tall, are a fascinating sight nestled in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness where summer temperatures have been known to reach 100°F!
Another fascinating feature wandering the Kobuk landscape is the herd of almost 500,000 that makes its annual migration through the Park each year. In the spring, the caribou travel north as they pass across the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. The heard can be seen heading southbound in late August and September.
Getting there: Getting to Kobuk takes a bit of effort as there are no roads leading into this park. Commercial airlines fly from Anchorage to Kotzebue and from Fairbanks to Bettles. From Kotzebue or Bettles, a bush pilot will fly you into the depths of this fascinating land!
The other option is to take a boat up the Kobuk River to gain access to the park. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with a genuine “Alaskan Wilderness” experience above the Artic Circle.
When to go: The park is open year round and the sun never sets from June 3rd to July 9th. The weather during the summer months is usually in the mid 60°’s. Winter temps average -6°and can dip as low as -50°F!
Where to stay: If you choose to visit this park for more than a just a day trip, be sure to bring a tent and your camping gear! There are no lodging facilities or developed campsites inside Kobuk.
What to do: Once inside the park boundaries, there are no trails – just 1.7 million acres of remote backcountry where you can hike, backpack, camp, float rivers, fish, view the wildlife and photograph this amazing wilderness.
Hiking, Camping and Backpacking: Since trails do not exist within Kobuk, when your bush pilot drops you off you will be experiencing “Wild Alaska” in its truest sense. There are no roads, restaurants or grocery stores in this park. Even the Park Ranger Station and Visitors Center are located outside the park boundaries in Kotzebue.
Memorable moment: Our journey into the depths of Kobuk Valley National Park began by taking off in a vintage 6-passenger DeHavilland Beaver floatplane from a pond in Bettles, AK in cloudy, rainy conditions with very poor visibility and 2 hours later, landing on the narrows of the Kobuk River near the famous Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. Even more memorable is making it back to Bettles alive!
Trivia: Arctic sand dunes and vast herds of caribou aren't the only things that make Kobuk Valley National Park unique. The Kobuk locoweed is a small, flowering herb in the pea family that is only found in Kobuk Valley National Park.
Banner: Approaching the Sand Dunes of Kobuk Valley National Park.
Experience these Check List:
- The most challenging thing to do is “Getting There!”
- Visit the Park Headquarters and the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, AK (not in the park)
- Visit the other Visitor Center in Bettles, AK.
- Take a flightseeing tour to the sand dunes
- Float the Kobuk River