Alaska’s Wilder­ness Rim

Where Alaska - - The Guide -

Stretch­ing from De­mar­ca­tion Point on the Beau­fort Sea, down the Bering Sea Coast to Bris­tol Bay, and out to Attu Is­land, west­ern­most tip of Alaska, this re­gion en­com­passes mil­lions of acres of land, in­clud­ing the YukonKuskok­wim Delta. Wildlife refuges and parks of­fer unique op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­mote back­coun­try ad­ven­tur­ers.


These more re­mote re­gions of Alaska, of­ten re­ferred to sim­ply as “the Bush,” are not—with the ex­cep­tion of Prud­hoe Bay in the Arc­tic—con­nected to the state’s road sys­tem. But they are con­nected by air to just about any­where else in the state via char­ter or sched­uled air­lines. Travel within the re­gion is also by boat in sum­mer, snow­ma­chine and dog sled in win­ter.

Bush Alaska draws both the rugged ad­ven­turer, with back­pack and in­sect re­pel­lent in hand, and those who want to ex­pe­ri­ence Bush life, but with ameni­ties. Off-the-grid, fly-in lodges of­fer va­ca­tion pack­ages that in­clude gourmet meals, dog mush­ing (in win­ter), hik­ing and fish­ing (in sum­mer), along with a host of other ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing yoga. World-class fly-fish­ing and bear view­ing are a fo­cal point for many of these lodges.

For the ad­ven­tur­ous, there are plenty of trips to choose from, whether it’s raft­ing the Kongk­agut River, float­ing the Yukon River or back­pack­ing Arc­tic Na­tional Wildlife Refuge. The na­tion’s largest state park, Wood-Tikchik, an area about the size of Delaware at 1.6 mil­lion acres, is found here, as is the largest wildlife refuge, 20-mil­lionacre Yukon Delta Na­tional Wildlife Refuge.


Sport fish­ing and brown bear view­ing are at the heart of Katmai’s draw, along with the Val­ley of Ten Thou­sand Smokes. Fly-in lodges at Grosvenor Lake, Ku­lik Lake and other lo­ca­tions fo­cus on sport­fish­ing. Bears con­gre­gate at Brooks Falls, within walk­ing dis­tance of Brooks Lodge; view­ing plat­forms and nat­u­ral­ist-guided walks are avail­able. Bus tours leave the lodge for the Val­ley of Ten Thou­sand Smokes, 23 miles away, where streams have cut dra­matic gorges through vol­canic de­bris left by the June 6, 1912, erup­tion of No­varupta Vol­cano.


Lo­cated on Kodiak Is­land in the Gulf of Alaska, the city of Kodiak (pop. 6,338) is a 50-minute plane ride from An­chor­age. Kodiak Is­land is home to the largest brown bears in North Amer­ica; world­class sport­fish­ing; one of the largest Coast Guard bases and one of the largest com­mer­cial fish­ing ports in the na­tion. Kodiak at­trac­tions in­clude Alu­tiiq Mu­seum, Bara­nov Mu­seum, Kodiak Is­land Brew­ery and the Kodiak Mil­i­tary His­tory Mu­seum. Kodiak Is­land surf­ing has been com­pared to Hawaii’s (with a bit of a tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence).


From small vil­lages to first-class cities, pop­u­la­tions are pre­dom­i­nantly Alaska Na­tive, and the tra­di­tional sub­sis­tence life­style of hunt­ing, fish­ing and gath­er­ing, re­mains preva­lent to­day. Ma­jor com­mu­ni­ties in­clude: Bar­row (pop. 4,469), the far­thest north set­tle­ment in the U.S.; Bethel (pop. 6,241), trans­porta­tion hub for the Yukon-Kuskok­wim Delta; Kotze­bue (pop. 3,153), an Inu­piat Eskimo city lo­cated 26 miles above the Arc­tic Cir­cle and a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion with tour groups; Nome (pop. 3,695), the fin­ish for the Idi­tarod Sled Dog Race™; Dilling­ham (pop. 2,431), noted for its com­mer­cial fish­ing in Bris­tol Bay; and Unalaska/ Dutch Har­bor (pop. 4,364), far­thest west port for the Alaska state ferry sys­tem, noted for its com­mer­cial crab fish­ing in the Bering Sea. Prud­hoe Bay, a 500-mile drive from Fair­banks, is pop­u­lated by oil in­dus­try em­ploy­ees.

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