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.
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. 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, fishing boats crowding the beach to be repaired and locals preparing for the coming winter. This is the optimum place to watch the summer’s midnight sun roll along the horizon, painting the sea reddish gold in a beautiful scene of color and light reflecting off the water. Beginning in early June, the sun does not set for about six weeks.
Things to do
The National Park Service operates a facility in Kotzebue year round and provides information on nearby Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park and Cape Krusenstern National Monument.
Kotzebue has one of the largest communities of indigenous people in the Far North; 80 percent of the residents are Inupiat Eskimo. Much of the town's history and culture can be viewed at the newly constructed Northwest Arctic Heritage Center. The center was built and is being 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 that populate the region. In the center of town there is a large cemetery where decorated spirit houses have been erected over many of the graves.
Northwest Arctic Heritage Center (907-442-3760) and Innaigvik Education & Information Center (907-442-3760) provide local visitor information.
Kayaking - Rafting
Kotzebue is a departure point for some of the finest river trips in Arctic Alaska. Popular floats include the Noatak, the Kobuk, the Salmon, which flows into the Kobuk, and the Selawik. Trips along the Kobuk National Wild River 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 National Wild River is a 16-day, 350-mile float from Lake Matcharak to the village of Noatak, where flights to Kotzebue are also available.
Northwest Arctic Heritage Center
The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center opened in 2010 as Kotzebue's newest attraction. Built by the National Park Service, the center focuses on aboriginal life in the region of Kobuk Valley National Park and the natural and cultural history of the Northwest Arctic. Exhibits include items obtained from residents of the area and include a woman’s parka, red fox fur hat, replicated artifacts, umiak frame, and fish net.