Endless acres of Alaska State Parks and National Wildlife Refuges offer abundant opportunities for the remote backcountry adventurer. Raft the Kongkagut River, float the Yukon River, backpack through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or packraft down the Alatna River. Guiding services make this easy—just make your reservation!
Bush Alaska is also a mecca for those who desire pampering at an off-the-grid lodge with fly-in lodges near (and far) from larger communities. Extraordinary fly-fishing and often bear-viewing is a focal point for these lodges. Travel within the region is typically by small plane to smaller communities, (Alaska Air has flights to the noted communities below), boat, snowmachine and even dog sled.
Bordering the Bering Sea, the Western Alaska coastline is virtually treeless and barren. Still the Western region holds polar bears, musk ox, caribou, wood bison and wolves and millions of migratory birds nest in the area; this wildlife draws inquisitive visitors.
Called “the Bush,” the communities in Western Alaska are primarily inhabited by Alaska Natives who rely on the land in much the way their ancestors did. Subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering are common practices.
The Western region features the nation’s largest state park, Wood-Tikchik, an area about the size of Delaware at 1.6 million acres. The largest wildlife refuge in the nation is also here, the 20million-acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, and its efforts to conserve wildlife populations and habitats help to support continued subsistence in the region.
KATMAI NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes and bears are at the heart of Katmai’s draw. Within the borders of the national park and preserve are 15 volcanoes (some still active) and North America’s largest population of protected brown bears at about 2,000 strong. You can hike, kayak, camp and canoe in the park or sportfish in pristine rivers. And you can watch the best fisher of them all, the great Alaskan brown bear. At the end of the day—deep in the heart of wilderness—relax in a comfortable lodge.
Kodiak (pop. 6,626) is located in the Gulf of Alaska on Kodiak Island, a 50-minute plane ride 250 miles southwest of Anchorage. Known as Alaska’s Emerald Isle, Kodiak Island is the second-largest island in the U.S. It is home to the largest brown bears in North America; world-class sportfishing; the largest Coast Guard base in the nation; and is one of the largest commercial fishing ports in the U.S.
Attractions include Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository, Baranov Museum, Kodiak Island Brewery and the Kodiak Military History Museum located in a bunker from WWII. Visit in May for the King Crab Festival and celebrate one of the island’s most lucrative fisheries. A surfing destination, Kodiak Island waves have been compared to areas of Hawaii (with a bit of a temperature difference).
Unalaska/Dutch Harbor (pop. 4,364) became famous in the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” television show about commercial crab fishing in the Bering Sea. It is the furthest west port for the State of Alaska’s ferry system.
Nome (pop. 3,695), on Norton Sound, was a bustling gold-rush town from 1899 to 1903. Today it hosts the finish line for the Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race each March and draws prospectors for off-shore gold mining.
Other major communities include: Barrow (pop. 4,469), Bethel (pop. 6,241), Kotzebue (pop. 3,153), and Dillingham (pop. 2,431).