Ruby is an Athabascan village of 160 residents nestled in the Kilbuck-Kuskokwim Mountains along the Yukon River in Alaska’s Interior, about 230 miles west of Fairbanks.
As is typical of Alaska’s rural communities, Ruby is not on the road system and access to the village is only by riverboat in the summer, snowmobile in the winter or small airplanes, which provide service year-round.
Until the mid 1800s, the only inhabitants of the area were the Koyukon Athabascans, a nomadic people who moved with the seasons in accordance to the migrations of game and fish. Ruby was established as a supply point for gold miners and was named after the red-colored stones found on the riverbank that prospectors thought were rubies. Two gold strikes fueled the growth of Ruby and at one point more than 1,000 miners lived in Ruby. Mining operations ceased during World War II and only a handful of residents remained in the village. Ruby rebounded when the residents of nearby Kokrines relocated there after the war and in 1973, Ruby was incorporated as a second-class city.
Things to do
Ruby provides limited services and supplies to paddlers and others floating the Yukon River, and also serves as a stop along the northern route on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The village is on the western border of Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge and is one of two villages (Tanana is the other) that serve as staging points for expeditions into the 1,560,000-acre preserve.
Besides the Yukon River, Ruby is an entry point for several other float trips in Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge. A common canoe expedition is to begin at Sulatna Crossings, reached from Ruby via the Placerville Road, and float the Sulatna River to the Nowitna River. Follow the Nowitna into the Yukon and pull out at Ruby, a trip of 230 miles.
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
Ruby serves as a check point the along the 1,100-mile northern route of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Every other year the village of Ruby comes alive when a large group of mushers, press and volunteers arrive for the event in March.