National park, northwestern Alaska, U.S. Located north of the Arctic Circle, it was made a national monument in 1978 and a national park in 1980. Occupying an area of 1,750,421 acres (708,370 hectares), it preserves the Kobuk River valley, including the Kobuk and Salmon rivers, forest lands, and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. Archaeological sites reveal more than 10,000 years of human habitation. It protects caribou migration routes; other wildlife include grizzly and black bears, foxes, moose, and wolves.
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Bounded by the Waring Mountains in the South and the Baird Mountains in the North, it is the center of a vast ecosystem between Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and the Noatak National Preserve. It is over by river to the Chukchi Sea. The Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve lie to the west. The most visible animals are the 400,000 caribou of the Western Arctic herd. The herd migrates annually between their winter breeding grounds, south of the Waring Mountains, and their summer calving grounds, north of the Baird Mountains. The herd's annual crossing of the Kobuk River is central to the Inupiaq people's subsistence hunting.
No roads lead to the park. It is reachable by foot, dogsled, snowmobile, and chartered air taxis from Nome and Kotzebue year-round. The park is one of the least visited in the National Park System, ranking as the least visited national park in the country in 2006 with just 3,005 visitors. Incredibly, this dropped to just 847 visitors in 2007.