A visit to the Kobuk Sand Dunes is the perfect way to extend your time in the wilderness after paddling the Noatak River with us. The contrast between the greens of the Noatak hills and the tawny sands of the dunes is striking, and will peak your interest as you travel between the two places that are so different and yet so near to each other.
Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited park in the America. Though nearly totally unknown, the park is full of wildlife and scenic wonders. Kobuk Dunes is a little like the Sahara, but with wolves, moose and cranes. Onion Portage is an archaeological district with evidence of human use for the past 12,000 years. The Kobuk River is a magnificent river rich with wildlife and broad vistas.
At the start of our trip we fly into Kobuk Valley National Park and arrive at the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, a sea of sand in the arctic wilderness. The dunes were formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region and deposited sand south of the Kobuk River in an enormous mountain basin. This is the largest dune complex in arctic North America and it is both fascinating and beautiful. The eastern side of the dunes is more stable and vegetated. There are ponds, wolf dens, and fingers of spruce forest which extend in to the dunes. On the leeward side, the dunes get larger and larger with sand ridges over 200 feet tall! There are vast areas where a hiker cannot see the edge of the dunes anywhere and one expects to see a camel or caravan until a Sandhill Crane flies by with its prehistoric sounding call, or a moose trots off over the sand. On the west side of the dunes, sand blows off the sand ridges and into the woods and creek. It is easy to visualize how the forest is being swallowed by the advancing dunes.
This trip combines with our Noatak Canoe Trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park and provides a great way to experience two of America’s wildest National Parks.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Your fellow paddlers are heading back to the hectic pace of life, but you are headed further west into America’s least visited National Park. The plane lands right in the dunes.
A full day to enjoy the dunes. Moose, wolves and fox all frequent the dunes as do a great number of birds. The sand constantly shifts and swirls. There are springs coming right out of the sand and great expanses where nothing seems to live. The hiking is soft in places but great distances can be covered if so inclined. Swim in the ponds, look for wolf dens, slide down the tallest dunes, or just stretch out your beach towel and parasol.
Mid-day we hear the hum of the propeller and seal our bags one last time. Then it is a one-hour flight down the Kobuk to the Arctic Coast and the village of Kotzebue. If you left a bag with us in Fairbanks, you will find it in Kotzebue. You can spend the night in Kotzebue or travel on your own to Anchorage or points south. (Weather Permitting)
Transportation starting on the Noatak and ending in Kotzebue, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, base camp tent, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, tent, photographic equipment. Gratuity for guide(s).
Kobuk Dunes tends to be dry and sunny, but in late August it can get cold at night. You gear from the Noatak will be appropriate for this portion of the trip and insects probably won’t be an issue.