Kotzebue lies at the tip of a gravel spit that reaches into Kotzebue Sound in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic region. Its location near the drainages of the Noatak, Kobuk, and Selawik Rivers make it a transportation and supply hub for villages that lie along these rivers to the east.
Kotzebue is home to one of the largest populations of Alaska Native peoples in the state - 80 percent of its residents are Inupiat. Situated 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Kotzebue provides access to some of the finest river running in Arctic Alaska due to its proximity to the Noatak, Kobuk, and Selawik Rivers.
Things to do
Shore Avenue, Kotzebue’s main drag, is a narrow gravel road only a few yards from the water at the northern edge of town and offers views of salmon drying out on racks and fishing boats along the beach. This is the optimum place to watch Alaska’s midnight sun roll across the horizon. Beginning in early June, the sun does not set for about six weeks.
Much of the town's history and culture can be viewed at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center. The center is operated through a partnership between the National Park Service and NANA, an Alaska Native corporation. The center features information on the area's indigenous culture and the plants, animals, and birds of the region. In the center of town, there is a large cemetery where decorated spirit houses adorn many of the graves.
The town is the gateway for access to three nearby parks and public lands: Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Cape Krusenstern National Monument. Air taxi service from Kotzebue provides access to a world of wilderness adventures into these remote parks, including backpacking, hiking, rafting, wildlife viewing, photography, fishing, and hunting. The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center provides information on all three of these areas.
Kotzebue is a departure point for some of the finest river trips in Arctic Alaska. Popular floats include the Noatak, Kobuk, Salmon, and Selawik Rivers. Trips along the Kobuk River in Kobuk Valley National Park often consist of landing at Walker Lake and traveling 140 miles downstream to the villages of Kobuk or Ambler, where rafters can pick up flights to Kotzebue. The Noatak River in Noatak National Preserve is a 16-day, 350-mile float from Lake Matcharak to the village of Noatak, where flights to Kotzebue are also available.
As a transportation hub to several remote villages in the area, Kotzebue offers visitor services including a couple of restaurants, coffee shops, a grocery store, and accommodations including a hotel and B&Bs. The Kotzebue Airport receives scheduled air service from Alaska Airlines, with direct flights from Anchorage, and other regional carriers. Air taxi services fly to Kotzebue from Nome and Fairbanks, and local air charters offer flights to smaller villages within the surrounding Northwest Arctic Borough.