A Place to See Sand Dunes in Alaska

August 30, 2016

Kobuk_Sand_DunesSand dunes are usually associated with the desert, but there is one place far from the heat that has them, and of all places they’re in Alaska.

These sand dunes occupy Kobuk Valley National Park in Northern Alaska. The park covers over 1.7-million-acres and is 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It is only accessible by air, foot, snowmobile, or dogsled, making it one of the least visited parks in the U.S National Park system.

The park’s most curious feature is its sand dunes which look like they’ve been transported from some desert location. Sand dunes cover a 25-square-mile area of the park in the southern portion which consist of the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, Little Kobuk Sand Dunes, and Hunt River Dunes. They were formed by glaciers as they moved and scoured the ground, leaving sand behind. The dunes rise 100-feet and are the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic. Because of the lack of rainfall and desert-like conditions, summer temperatures here can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit

The_Great_Kobuk_Sand_Dunes
Credit: NPS

But getting to the dunes is no easy task. Since there are no marked trails in the park, few people actually make the trek to the dunes from the Kobuk River, and there are no roads into the park. That makes it hard enough just to get to the park itself.

Humans were found to have been in the area 10,000 years ago, and Alaskan residents continue to hunt caribou there as the Western Arctic caribou herd, which consists of 490,000 caribou, move through the area during their yearly migration. While the southern portion holds the huge dunes, the rest of the park consists of boreal forests and tundra.

Kobuk Sand Dunes
Credit: Western Arctic National Parklands

In 2015, the visitation record was broken for people that visited U.S. National Parks. According to the National Park Service, that number stood at more than 305 million people that went to parks in 2015. Kobuk Valley National Park had an estimated 16,875 people visit it in 2013 (the latest National Park Service estimates). This is actually a large rise from the number of people that visited the park in 2007 which consisted of 847 people.

Sources: National Geographic, Travel Alaska, Anchorage Museum, NPS Stats, NPS News Release

Top Photo Credit: Anthony Remboldt/Wikimedia

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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