Kobuk Valley National Park
The Kobuk Valley National Park is a remote, rugged, wild, beautiful park in northwestern Alaska that makes visitors feel they're looking back in time. There are many breathtaking views, including Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. It is home to a large variety of wildlife, consisting of twenty-two percent of the USA’s grizzly bears, and also thousands of deer, caribou, Dall’s sheep, black bears, whales, and several rare species such as the arctic petrel. It also is the almost exclusive home of an American Indian tribe, the Kwakiutl Subarctic tribe.
Geography and History of the Park
The Kobuk Valley was created 150,000 years ago as five glaciers retreated across Alaska at the end of the latest Ice Age. They carved the three dune fields of this park; the Little Kobuk, Hunt River, and Great Kobuk. This carving of land is called glacial rubbing. The dunes were built higher by glacial sand and dust, carried by wind and streams running down the Waring and Baird Mountain ranges. 100,000 years ago, American Indians crossed the Bering Land Bridge and built homes near the valley. 148 years ago, we bought Alaska from Russia. 35 years ago, the Kobuk Valley National Park was founded by NPS and backed by Jimmy Carter, the 39th U.S. President. President Carter did this in part because the Native Alaskan Indians who lived there considered the valley sacred. Roughly 20 years ago, more tourists started going to the valley and taking pictures of the amazing valley views and the almost half a million caribou herds making their biannual river crossings. These pictures were very popular with college students, families, and biologists living in Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. Now, the land that the glaciers created is a 25 square mile protected park with thousands of visitors a month.
The wildlife in the valley is abundant. 3,000 caribou, Dall's sheep, brown, black, and polar bears, rabbits, hares, salamanders, moose, mountain goats, and other life is everywhere. There are also amazing things in the rivers too. Pike, lampreys, whitefish, salmon, trout, and lots of other fish live in the rivers. There are more bird species than anyone can list. The Onion Portage is where some Eskimos, Kwakiutl, and caribou cross the Kobuk to hunt and graze. The Portage is also one of the best whitefish and chum salmon fishing spots in the entire valley. The Kobuk and Hunt Rivers are the only rivers in the park, so they're teeming with bears, fishermen, and other animals all wanting to find dinner in the plentiful fish swimming in those rivers.
The Native Alaskan group called the Kwakiutl has a long history. They have hunted many of the native animal species in the park since the tribe was founded, the glaciers left, and something other than igloos were built. They have a fabled jade mountain to tell legends about, and they have an estimated 20 stories about legends that happened there. The existence of the mountain, constructed of pure jade, has been proven, but none of the legends of the showdowns and fights that happened on the mountain have real roots in scientific fact. The Kwakiutl have a big hand in the Kobuk valley ecosystem and a smaller hand in the Alaskan ecosystem. Their history is one of the longest in subarctic history. They're very friendly and social after living in huts for long periods, and many of the Kwakiutl people are guides in Alaska. Climbing, hunting, fishing, and survival skills are all things you can find Kwakiutl guides for in Alaska. There is much that you can learn from this ancient tribe.
All in all, this park is a amazing park filled with wildlife, bordered by beautiful mountains, dotted with gigantic dunes, home to an Indian tribe and it's beauty should be shown to the world. This park is 2,375 square miles of remote, rugged heaven on earth in one of the most out of the way places on the planet.
A caribou pelvis dug up in the Great Kobuk dune field.
Baird Mountain Range
A snapshot of the Baird Mountain Range, from the top of one of it's mountains. This range borders the valley and park from the north.
The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes.
The tallest mountain in the Waring range, which borders the valley from the south and faces the Baird range.
Mother bear with cub
Taken near the Hunt River, these two bears were tagged and tracked after the photo was taken.
Where the Kobuk River empties into Kotzebue Sound.