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Watching Wildlife at Kobuk Valley National Park

The Kobuk Valley National Park is the lesser-known Alaskan park to the acclaimed Denali National Park. Designated in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to preserve the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, as well as the surrounding caribou migration routes, park goers are required to bring their own gear for camping, hiking, etc. There are no designated trails or roads in the park – this is as rugged as it gets.

Today, the park encompasses 1,750,7160 acres of land, making it larger than the state of Delaware. It is also one of the eight National Parks in Alaska, making Alaska the state with the second-most parks after California.

Since there are no roads in the park, in order to see it, visitors need to charter an air taxi from Nome, Bettles, or Kotzebue. Due to this, the park is one of the least visited in the United States. However, the park is an amazing geological spectacle at the center of the vast ecosystem between Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and the Noatak National Preserve.

The summertime is when this park really shines, with life abounding along the Kobuk River. Sit back and watch wolves, foxes, bears, and more dart across the tundra in search of food. Additionally, since the park is so far north, you can enjoy Alaska’s midnight sun which provides access to the park into the wee hours of the morning.

The park is also home to millions of birds that flock to the sheltered lakes and rivers for breeding. The arctic tern will actually fly from the Kobuk River to the coast of Antarctica and back.

Fun fact: Kobuk Valley is home to one of the largest migrations on the planet when the Western Arctic Caribou Herd passes through the valley on a 600-mile adventure between their summer and winter locations.

Kobuk Valley National Park’s Top Animals

  • Grizzly bears
  • Wolves
  • Wolverines
  • Foxes
  • Porcupines
  • Moose
  • Salmon
  • Terns
  • Herons
  • Caribou

Viewing Locations

Since there are no roads, hiking trails, visitors centers, or special points, there is no specific place to go to watch wildlife in this park. However, visiting this park is something you will never forget. The lack of people or roads means the wildlife feel more comfortable roaming free. In the summer, you can catch just about every animal emerging from the woods to take a drink from the Kobuk River.

When Should You Go?

Since chartering an air taxi is not possible with dangerous weather, the best time of year to visit this park is hands-down May through September. During this time, the snow and ice retreats, the sun shines early, and life appears back in the valley. Any other time is nearly impossible for travelers– and very dangerous. Note: bring bug spray, as since millions of insects thrive in the ponds that develop from the melted snow.