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Bering Land Bridge National Preserve


Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

courtesy of the National Park Service

So you think you're experiencing some cold weather this winter? Well, how about visiting a national park where the average January low temperature is 15 below zero on the coast and 50 below zero in the interior. Considered to be one of the most remote areas in the national park system, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve spans 2.7 million acres of the Seward Peninsula in northwest Alaska. Its western boundary is located 42 miles from the Bering Strait and the United States-Russia fishing boundary. To say the climate here is variable would be a gross understatement. The bitterly cold winters that include only 4-5 hours of daylight contrast with summer months which feature weather in the 50-70 degree range, and more than 21 hours of daylight. Even the summertime weather can include snow, near freezing temperatures, and long periods of clouds, wind, and rain.

The Land:

The 55-mile span across the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska's Seward Peninsula once featured a continuous land bridge that surfaced during Earth's ice ages, when sea level in the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea dropped by 300 feet or more due to a buildup of glacial ice. During the most recent ice age, the land bridge covered 580,000 square miles -- an area roughly twice the size of Texas. Archeologists generally agree that it was across this land bridge, also called Beringia, that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas. A recent study indicates that the Bering Land Bridge existed until about 11,000 years ago, at which time it was covered over again by the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea.

The Preserve's landscape features extensive lava flows and ash/steam explosion craters that have turned into lakes called maars. It also includes a coast and beach environment of barrier islands and low sand dunes. Tundra plant communities range from wet tundra on the coast to alpine tundra on mountains in and near the Preserve. The area boasts a rich flora and fauna, with more than than 400 species of plants, 170 species of birds, and a number of land and marine mammals.

Getting to Bering Land Bridge National Preserve:

The 2.7 million-acre Preserve is relatively isolated, with no roads leading to the area. Nome and Kotzebue are the immediate points from which air taxi services provide scheduled flights to neighboring villages or charter flights into the Preserve. Winter access is mostly by small planes on skis, by snowmachine, or by dog sleds.

Facilities and Things to Do:

The visitor center is located at 240 Front Street in Nome, Alaska. Limited federal facilities within the Preserve include six shelter cabins and a bunkhouse style cabin at Serpentine Hot Springs. Lodging is available at the intermediate points of Nome and Kotzebue. Primitive camping is permitted, though no reservations are accepted.

Visitor activities include wilderness hiking and camping, photography, fishing, river floating, boating, canoeing, and wildlife and wildflower watching. Hunting and fishing are permitted under state regulations. The Preserve is open year round, and the winter months offer opportunities for snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross-country skiing. Visitors can also explore remains of the gold rush era and observe evidence of ancient Eskimo life. The Preserve and its surrounding area (including nearby Native villages) offer opportunities to observe and learn about traditional subsistence lifestyles, as well as reindeer herding, and arts and crafts.

Contact Information for Bering Land Bridge National Preserve:

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
P.O. Box 220
Nome, Alaska 99762
Phone: (907) 443-2522

Other Useful Resources:

Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation - features descriptive information on the Alaska state park system, the office of history and archeology, and trail programs.

Archeological Overview of Alaska - from the National Park Service.

Glaciation in Beringia - a research project covering NW North America and NE Siberia, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Park Service

PBS Electronic Field Trip - takes you on a visit to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Student Information Guide to Alaska - includes basic information and factoids on Alaska, including history, government, economy, transportation, and more from the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

TravelAlaska.com - official site of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Inclludes trip planning information and maps.
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