Kobuk Valley National Park is located near Fairbanks, Alaska in USA.
Kobuk Valley National Park covers an area of 1,669,813 acres
(6,757.49 km2), making it the sixth largest national park in Alaska
and the ninth in the entire United States. It is located about 40 km
north of the Arctic Circle, which protects the migration routes of
the caribou and the large sand dunes of Kobuk (Great Kobuk Sand
Dunes). Administratively, the park belongs to the borough Northwest
Arctic. It was first established as a national monument in 1978 and
then as a national park in 1980.
Kobuk Valley National Park protects a section of the valley of the
Kobuk river, more or less the central section of the river that ends
up in the Kotzebue Sound, in the Chukchi sea. The Kobuk River has a
total length of 280 km, of which 177 km are also considered as wild
river and national landscape. The valley is limited by the mountains
of Waring, in the south, and by the mountains of Baird, in the
north. This park is the center of a vast protected ecosystem also
composed of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge (Selawik National
Wildlife Refuge, with 8 700 km²), the Noatak National Reserve
(Noatak National Preserve, with 26 587 km²), located to the north ,
and the Puertas del Ártico national park and reserve, which is
located about 50 km west, adjoining Noatak (34,287 km²). The most
visible animals are the 400,000 caribou from the western Arctic
herd. The herd migrates annually between its winter breeding sites,
south of the Waring Mountains, and the summer birth sites, north of
the Baird Mountains. The annual crossing of the Kobuk River of the
herd is essential for the subsistence hunting of the Inupiaq tribe.
No road leads to Kobuk Valley National Park. It is accessible on
foot, dog sledding, snowmobiles and air taxis chartered from Nome
and Kotzebue all year round. The park is one of the least visited in
the United States National Park System, classified as the least
visited national park in the country in 2006, with only 3,005
visitors. Incredibly, these visits were reduced to only 847 visitors
in the year 2007.
Human habitation in Kobuk Valley is believed to
extend back at least 12,500 years. The present inhabitants of the
valley are the Inupiat people, who subsist on hunting and fishing in
the region. The Onion Portage Archeological District is a National
Historic Landmark district at the east end of the Kobuk River's
course through the park. The site, strategically located at a major
caribou river crossing, documents nine cultural complexes spanning
from 8,000–6,000 BC to about 1000–1700 AD. The site is an inholding
of the NANA Regional Corporation, an Alaskan native corporation with
rights in the park.
The first human inhabitants of the Kobuk
Valley were people of the Paleo-Arctic Tradition, who hunted caribou
at Onion Portage. The region was apparently deserted for about 2,000
years until people of the Archaic tradition appeared in the valley
from the south and east. By about 4,000 years before the present,
people of the Arctic Small Tool tradition arrived, but departed
between 1,500 and 1,000 years ago, again leaving the valley
unoccupied. New people arrived by about 1200 AD, as documented by
the Ahteut site 25 miles (40 km) downriver from Onion Portage.
People remained in the valley until the mid-19th century, when the
caribou population declined and people moved closer to the coast.
These people were the Akunirmiut and Kuuvaum Kangiamirnuit. One of
their villages was located in the present park at the mouth of the
Hunt River. Their descendants, now known as the Kuuvangmiit, have
mostly moved out of park lands.
About 32 prospectors' camps
were established during a short gold rush in 1899–1900. Surveys have
not yet located them, although debris associated with the miners'
boats has been found all over the region.