Kuzitrin Lake

Stone cairns with Kuzitrin Lake in the background and a rainbow in the sky.
Two stone cairns with Kuzitrin Lake in the background.

NPS Photo

 

During the summer, Kuzitrin Lake often inspires a sense of awe as the drifting white clouds reflect on the
deep blue surface of the lake. Early people who entered the current boundaries of the preserve used the
area surrounding Kuzitrin Lake for hunting and gathering. Did these early people pause a moment
to watch the clouds slowly drift across the lake? Or were their thoughts more focused on the details of
survival? We will never be able to fully comprehend their thoughts or motivations, but we can try to piece
together a part of their history from the structures and artifacts they left behind. Kuzitrin Lake has been a
hunting and gathering spot in the Bering Land bridge National Preserve for over 4,500 years. The
framework for a complex series of stone features used as a caribou drive system still stand to this day.

The groups of people who took advantage of the unique characteristics of the Kuzitrin Lake area often left
behind clues to their methods of survival. They built and created ingenious caribou drive systems to
compensate for the difficulty of chasing down fast moving prey. Following the shape and flow of the land,
they created drivelines to take advantage of the natural features in the area. Hunters built stone cairns
strategically atop ridges, parallel to shorelines, and along narrow passes. Cairns, and other stone
features, were built using rubble from ancient lava flows, which had been broken up during intense frost
action. In an area that can seem barren of natural resources the lava flows supplied the basic building
materials to construct these necessary structures.

During the summer months, groups of caribou passed through the Kuzitrin Lake area. The caribou on the
Seward Peninsula did not follow a regular migration pattern, making it difficult for hunters to predict their
movements. Hunters responded to the irregular movements of the caribou by building hunting blinds on
top of ridges near the lake. After spotting caribou from these stone lookouts, groups of hunters drove the
caribou through drivelines towards Kuzitrin Lake. The panicked caribou surged through the driveline,
dashing between large human-like stone structures and impassable natural features. At the end of the
driveline the caribou reached a kill site at the lake. The caribou splashed into the water, desperate to
escape the threatening hunters, only to be killed by a second group of hunters waiting in kayaks. In this
way, hunters from hundreds of years ago benefited from the special characteristics of the land in the
preserve.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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