Area: 27.0 square miles
Population: 3,082 (2000 census)
County: Northwest Arctic
Kotzebue, with a population of about 3000, is the largest Eskimo community above the North American Arctic Circle. Though incorporated as a city, Kotzebue is essentially still a village, and offers a wide variety of interesting experiences to visitors. The village is situated on the northern tip of the Baldwin Peninsula, 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, 1479 miles south of the North Pole and 175 miles from the Siberian mainland.
Kotzebue has a tundra climate. Summer temperatures average in the 50's, though some days reach into the 70's and even the 80's. Winter temperatures vary between 10 degrees above and 30 degrees below zero. Current records maintain a high of 85 degrees, set in July of 1958 and a low of 52 below, set in February of 1968. This does not however include the windchill factor which has on occasion reached 100 below. Area rivers begin freezing early in October; break-up occurs late in May or early June. During the winter months, ice in the Kotzebue Sound freezes to a depth of approximately five feet. The Sound may remain frozen into the second week of June, while the surrounding tundra is alive with spring growth.
June 2nd brings with it a sunrise which sets some 37 days later in August. On August 8th, those who wish, have the opportunity to see not one, but two sunsets.
Believe it or not, Kotzebue actually lies some distance west of Hawaii. The International Date Line passes through the Bering Straits between Kotzebue and Siberia.
The Kotzebue of today is filled with modern frame houses that have replaced the traditional sod igloos. Many features of the past, however, have not changed. "Main Street" is simply the gravel beach fronting the village.
For hundreds of years Kotzebue, or Qikiqtagruk as it is called in Inupiaq, the Eskimo language of the area, has been the trading and gathering center for the entire area. Noatak, Selawik and Kobuk River drainages and a portion of Kotzebue Sound converge at Kotzebue to form a logical transportation center for some 11 villages. To the people of the villages were added inhabitants of Siberia who came to trade. Furs, seal-oil, hides, rifles, ammunition, and oogruk (seal) skins were some of the items exchanged. Games and contests were held throughout the year and especially during gatherings.
With the arrival of the whalers, traders, gold seekers, and missionaries the trading center expanded and acquired it's name Qikiqtagruk. This was later changed to Kotzebue in honor of Captain Otto Von Kotzebue, a Russian naval officer, who sailed into the Sound in 1816 on a round-the-world voyage in which he attempted to find a northwest passage. In the summer, as they have for centuries, Eskimos, come to Kotzebue from near and far in their outboard motor-powered craft, bringing family, provisions, tents and occasionally, a dog team.
The Visitor Information Center, is jointly run by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Managemen. It provides information and exhibits from federal lands to the people of the NANA Region. This includes Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, and Cape Krusenstern National Monument. The center has a variety of videos and films on the culture of the Inupiaq people, National Parks, and National Park issues, for those who wish to view them.
Things To Do
The NANA Museum of the Arctic, was built in 1976 and is designed to be educational as well as entertaining. There are exhibits that depict many facets of life in one of the harshest climates in the world.