The magnificent scenery and untamed nature provides a genuine "Wild Alaska" experience
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 plain dotted with sizable lagoons and backed by gently rolling limestone hills. The treeless landscape of the cape provides wide-sweeping views across the horizon.
The 540,000-acre monument is an unusual archaeological site for the far Arctic; 114 beach-sand ridges located adjacent to Krusenstern Lagoon contain artifacts dating back more than 5000 years from every known Eskimo occupation of North America. Shifting sea ice, ocean currents and waves formed the ridges, each new one being used in succession by Eskimos 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, the women trim and render the catch for the hides and the meat and seal oil that are still vital to their diet.
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, with mid 60°F to 70°F range, with an occasional period of 80's or 90's, 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 only a few hours of sunlight and occasionally visitors will experience snow, near freezing temperatures, and long periods of clouds, wind, and rain.
Large numbers 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.
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 high winds and rain. Winter visits are recommended only for outdoors people experienced in arctic camping and survival techniques. Those prepared for the journey can enjoy a variety of activities, including learning about the area’s archaeological prehistory, kayaking along the coast and through lagoons, rustic camping or charting a backcountry trek. Flightseeing is also a popular option for experiencing this national treasure.
A road to the Red Dog mine crosses the northern boundary of the preserve with trucks hauling lead and zinc along it from the open pit mine to a tidewater port. Otherwise the monument is road less and totally devoid of any development or permanent villages. There are no shops, public facilities, campgrounds or trails within the monument. The park headquarters and visitor center are in Kotzebue, where ranger staff can provide valuable information on conditions, guides, and transporters for first time travelers.
There are no entrance fees in Cape Krusenstern National Monument.
Commercial jet service is provided from Anchorage to the gateway community of Kotzebue. To continue onto the monument most visitors use a charter air operator with flights to the monument generally an hour or less in duration. Summer access may also include motorized and non-motorized watercraft while winter access is via snowmobiles, aircraft or dog sled.
The Cape Krusenstern National Monument Headquarters and Visitor Center (907-442-3890; www.nps.gov/cakr) are located at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue and can provide lists of air taxi operators and outfitters who hold commercial licenses to operate in the monument.