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Kobuk Valley National Park  

Kobuk Valley National Park

A 1.7-million-acre park in northwest Alaska, Kobuk Valley National Park occupies a broad valley where the middle section of the Kobuk River is encircled by the Baird and Waring mountain ranges. Located 75 miles east of Kotzebue, this semi-enclosed bowl protects several unique features and one of Alaska's true oddities; the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes.

The 25-square-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, Little Kobuk Sand Dunes near Onion Portage and the Hunt River Dunes cover much of the southern Kobuk Valley and constitute the largest active sand dunes found in the Arctic. Formed by the grinding action of glaciers, these wind-sculpted dunes rise as high as 100 feet and are stabilized by the area's vegetation. The dunes, accessible by a strenuous hour-long hike along Kavet Creek from the Kobuk River, lie 40 miles above the Arctic Circle, yet summer temperatures there can soar to 100 degrees.

Kobuk Valley sits astride the transition zone between the boreal forest and the treeless Arctic tundra that extends westward to the Chukchi Sea. At its northern limit here the boreal forest is an open woodland of small trees in a mat of thick tundra. The Western Arctic caribou herd, the largest in Alaska at 490,000 animals, travels through the park during its migration from its calving grounds on the northern slopes of the Brooks Range to where the herd winters south of the range.

A section of the Kobuk River also runs through the park. Its bluffs, some of which stand more than 150 feet high, hold permafrost ice wedges and Ice Age mammal fossils. The slow-moving Kobuk River offers extraordinary wilderness float trip opportunities through scenic boreal forests teeming with wildlife. Other activities include backpacking, fishing, dog sledding, hiking and boating.

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