• Image of sand dunes

    Kobuk Valley

    National Park Alaska

Sand, Rivers and Caribou

Kobuk Valley National Park is encircled by the Baird and Waring mountain ranges. The park povides protection for several important geographic features, including the central portion of the Kobuk River, the 25-sqaure-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk and Hunt River dunes.

Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation. River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals.

Nearly half a million caribou migrate through the Park twice a year – north in the spring, south in the fall. Their tracks crisscross the 25 square miles of the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. The lofty dunes are a sculpted desert in the middle of a wilderness of wetlands. The Kobuk River on the north side of the dunes winds roughly 61 miles through the park, providing a travel path for people and wildlife.

Onion Portage is a National Historic Landmark on the Kobuk River where people gathered for 9000 years to harvest caribou as they forded the stream. Today, local Alaskan residents still feed their families with caribou from the river crossing in the fall.

Did You Know?

Image of 10 caribou swim across a river with a background of mountains and trees just starting to gold in autumn.

Caribou have been hunted in the same spot at Onion Portage for the last 9000 years. This site in Kobuk Valley National Park is now a National Historic Landmark. Local area residents still hunt caribou here during the animals’ southward migration in the fall.