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Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk Valley National Park




Location: Fairbanks, Alaska  Map

Area: 1,669,813 acres (6,757.49 km2)

Official site




Description of Kobuk Valley National Park

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.




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