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Cape Krusenstern National Monument Alaska Musk Ox
Photo Credit: ATIA, Michael DeYoung
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Cape Krusenstern National Monument

Cape Krusenstern National Monument

The magnificent scenery and untamed nature of Cape Krustenstern provide a truly remote experience in Arctic Alaska.

Curving in graceful arcs 70 miles along the Chukchi Sea is Cape Krusenstern National Monument, one of America’s most remote treasures. The monument encompasses coastal plains dotted with sizable lagoons and backed by gently rolling limestone hills. The treeless landscape of the cape provides wide-sweeping views across the horizon.

THINGS TO DO

Due to the rugged environment, Cape Krusenstern is not known as a casual tourist destination. Visitors in the summer tend to be skilled backcountry explorers familiar with surviving potential harsh conditions, high winds, and rain. Winter visits are recommended only for outdoors people experienced in arctic camping and survival.

Those prepared for the journey can enjoy a variety of activities, including birding and wildlife viewing, learning about the area’s archaeological prehistory, kayaking along the coast and through lagoons, or embarking on a backcountry hike along the monument’s ridgelines and mountains. Adventure tour companies offer multi-day guided hiking and backpacking itineraries that include visits to Cape Krustenstern. Flightseeing is also a popular option to experience this national treasure, with air charter companies offering flights from Kotzebue and Bettles.

WILDLIFE

Over 150 species of migratory birds come from all over the world to Cape Krusenstern to nest, where vast wetlands provide food, water, and shelter during the summer months. Musk oxen, brown bears, caribou, and moose can also be seen in the monument.

LANDSCAPE

Located only 10 miles northwest of Kotzebue, Cape Krusenstern is composed of five large lagoons and many smaller lakes that dot a wide coastal plain of wet tundra. Further inland, rolling hills topped by dry tundra are connected by large areas of tussock grass. Permafrost underlies the entire monument. In summer, wildflowers color the beach ridges and nearby hills.

Weather is a central concern to those planning to visit the park at any time of year. Summer temperatures on the coast are usually in the low 50s to mid-70s, with an occasional period of 80s or 90s in the interior. Winds average 8 to 12 mph, but 50 to 70 mph winds commonly accompany storms and produce extremely low and dangerous wind chill factors. Summer days are long, almost without darkness; winter days are short, with very little daylight. Winter visitors will experience snow, near freezing temperatures, and long periods of clouds and wind.

HISTORY

The 540,000-acre monument is an unusual archaeological site for the Arctic: 114 beach-sand ridges adjacent to Krusenstern Lagoon contain artifacts dating back more than 5000 years from every known indigenous occupation of North America. Shifting sea ice, ocean currents, and waves formed the ridges, each new one being used in succession by indigenous peoples for their hunting camps.

The Inupiat continue to use this area today. Along the outer beaches, the Inupiat people hunt seals along the cape. At shoreline campsites, women trim and render the seals for their fur along with the meat and seal oil that are vital for their local subsistence-based diets.

FACILITIES AND CAMPING

A road to the Red Dog Mine crosses the northern boundary of the preserve. Otherwise, the monument is roadless and totally devoid of any development or permanent villages. There are no public facilities, campgrounds, or trails within the monument. The park headquarters and visitor center are in Kotzebue at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, where ranger staff can provide valuable information on conditions, guides, routes, and transportation for first-time travelers.

GETTING HERE

Commercial jet service is provided from Anchorage to the gateway community of Kotzebue. To continue into the monument, most visitors use an air taxi operator for an hour-long flight. Summer access may also include motorized and non-motorized watercraft while winter access is via snowmobiles, aircraft, or dog sled.

For more information, visit the Cape Krusenstern National Monument website.

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