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Kotzebue Travel Guide, Alaska

The Native Village of Kotzebue is a remote native settlement in Alaska with 3,082 residents, a number similar to a small size town. People live here close to the traditional lifestyle of their indigenous ancestors. The village has a Tribal government representing the original inhabitants of the area of northwest Alaska called Qikiktagrukmiut, but the village is populated and run by the Iñupiat.

The tribe is also called the Kotzebue IRA (the short for Indian Reorganization Act) and has about 2500 members most of them belonging to original Qikiktagruk families. Qikiktagruk sits on the Baldwin Peninsula 30 miles above the Arctic Circle. On the one side of the Peninsula is the large estuarine environment called Kobuk Lake and on the other side of it is the community of Kotzebue and the Kotzebue Sound. There are great least used and undeveloped outdoors at the edge of town with Brooks Range or Minumirauq and Qipaluq mountain ranges and three large rivers, the Kobuk, Noatak, and Selawik. Because of these great outdoors with historical anthropological importance, most part of the area was given a national significance and became protected areas. They are called the Kobuk National Park, Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Noatak National Preserve.

The members of the Kotzebue IRA have access to these areas where they continue their traditions being able to use its natural resources to meet their cultural and nutritional needs. Native culture is thriving in Kotzebue, a village that has retained a friendly, authentic feel with fish-drying racks and old dog sleds scattered along the streets, but there are also some institutions a to remind us that the village belongs to our era: a hospital, a bank, and some stores.

There still not much to interest a casual tourist as there’s little to do and see. The place has not yet been shaped up for touristy purposes. The possibility of taking part in an organized tour is not a certainty. Till some time ago the Tour Arctic was the one that brought people to Kotzebue through the NANA Museum of the Arctic, but you have to check with Alaska Airlines if they still do it.

One of the most appreciated outdoor organized activities still operating is the Fish Camp offered by the Arctic Circle Educational Adventures. Still bear in mind that this is a camp for active people lying around all day is not an option. Located 5 miles south of town, the camp is a replica of the native camps set up in summer to gather food for the winter; still there are some modern facilities like kitchen, dining room, shower, and sauna. You will have a lot of fun practicing traditional subsistence activities like food gathering, fish cutting and set-net fishing while for relaxation you can go hiking, bird-watching or even change the scenery by taking a town tour. This way you will get a real feel of the place and of the way people live here and you will have the opportunity to interact with Native people. You can join in from late June to mid-August.

Kotzebue makes it a great place for rugged, outdoors adventurers who want set up base while exploring the areas of Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

Located north of the Arctic Circle and nestling between the Baird and Waring Mountains, Kobuk Valley National Park has some bizarre sand dunes and comprises the central section of the Kobuk River. It boasts some breathtaking sights and there are good opportunities for hiking, camping, backpacking, boating, fishing, photography, star gazing and wildlife observation.

Cape Krusenstern National Monument is an unspoiled coastal plain dotted with lagoons, a series of 114 beach ridges and gently rolling limestone hills with wildflowers coloring them in summer and migratory birds coming here to nest. The beach ridges have historical significance as they present, detailed evidence of an estimated 9,000 years of prehistoric human use of this coastline.

If you are an adventure seeker, come to Kotzebue and you will the perfect base for your pursuit.

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