Kobuk, or Laugviik in Iñupiaq, is located on the north bank of the Kobuk River, 10 miles upriver of Shungnak and 128 air miles northeast of Kotzebue.
The village that is now Kobuk was founded in 1899 as the original Shungnak. It was a supply point for mining activities in the Cosmos Hills, a mountain range to the north. A trading post, public school and Friends Mission created a population magnet that drew several hundred residents who lived there until the 1920s, when riverbank erosion and flooding caused most of the people living there to relocate downriver to a new site called “Kochuk,” which is now Shungnak. The few people who stayed behind renamed the village Kobuk. In May 1973 the entire village was flooded when ice jams on the Kobuk River caused the water to rise. Six months later Kobuk was incorporated. To this day it remains the smallest community in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
The 1970 census listed a population of 56 people in Kobuk, representing nine extended families. By 1990 the population had almost doubled to 97 individuals. The current population is between 151. More than 90 percent of Kobuk residents are Iñupiaq Eskimos.
The Kobuk economy is based on a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Major food sources include caribou, moose and whitefish. The only year-round employers in Kobuk are the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, the City of Kobuk and Maniilaq Association. Collectively they employ about 12 percent of Kobuk’s adult population. Construction and Bureau of Land Management firefighting provides seasonal income for some residents.
CLIMATE AND TOPOGRAPHY
Temperatures in Kobuk average 10 degrees below zero to 15 degrees above Fahrenheit in winter, and 40 to 65 degrees in summer. Recorded extreme temperatures range from 68 below zero to 90 degrees above. Snowfall averages 56 inches per year, rainfall 17 inches. The Kobuk River is navigable from late May through early October. The topography of the riverbank village, which is low-lying and subject to spring floods, consists of tundra, foothills and trees.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND FACILITIES
The common modes of transportation in and out and Kobuk are plane, small boat, all-terrain vehicle and snowmachine. No roads connect the village with the rest of the state.
Air – Float planes land on the Kobuk River during warm-weather months. Additionally, scheduled air carriers fly into a state-owned, lighted gravel airstrip all year long. Roundtrip passenger airfare to Kotzebue costs just over $450. Air cargo rates from Kotzebue to Kobuk range from $1.25 per pound for loads exceeding 5,000 pounds to $1.45 for loads under 500 pounds.
Water – Small boat travel on the Kobuk River is utilized for visiting other villages, transporting supplies and subsistence hunting and fishing.
Land – An extensive trail network paralleling the Kobuk River, including a seven-mile route to Shungnak, provides year-round access to inter-village travel and subsistence hunting via all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines.
Kobuk has a community hall, a health clinic, a Baptist church and a washeteria with showers, potable water, laundry facilties and a dedicated septic tank.
There are roughly 34 residential housing structures in Kobuk. Most are antiquated log buildings. Less than half of them are inhabited. The median home value in Kobuk is $103,100; the median rent is $950 per month. The average household family size is 4.19 inhabitants.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Water – The Kobuk washeteria has a 30-foot well that provides treated water to the village. Residents haul water from the well for their private use. The village school has its own well filled with filtered, chlorinated and fluoridated water.
Sewer – Sewege from the washeteria is discharged to septic tank and seepage pit. Residential honeybucket and privy waste is disposed of in nearby Dall Creek.
Solid Waste Disposal – Kobuk residents haul garbage to an uncontrolled dumpsite two miles out of town. Tundra bog renders the site inaccessible for most of the summer.
Electricity – The Kobuk Valley Electric Cooperative buys power from the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative via the Kobuk-Shungnak intertie.
OTHER SERVICES AND UTILITIES
Health Services – Operated by Maniilaq Association, the Kobuk health clinic is staffed by two health aides and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The clinic houses a waiting room, office, two exam rooms, a bathroom, storage room and furnace. It offers routine medical services. Patients requiring emergency and other advanced medical care are flown to Kotzebue.
Law Enforcement Services – A Village Public Safety Officer, employed by Maniilaq Association, is the primary law enforcement contact in Kobuk. The village is also serviced by the Alaska State Troopers detachment stationed in Kotzebue.
Telecommunications – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides in-state telephone service to Kobuk residents and businesses, and long-distance service is provided through a combination of AT&T, Anchorage-based GCI and Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone. Internet service is provided through Inutek.net, a cooperative effort between OTZ, Maniilaq Association and Anchorage-based GCI Communications.
|Basic local service (single landline) - Includes taxes, fees. Additional charges for optional features||
Access Line/Residential: $16.55
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $6.50
Inside Wire Charge: $1.60
Universal Single Line: $0.01
Federal Tax: 3%
Business Phone (Access) Line: $24.50
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $9.20
Inside Wire Charge: $2.25
Universal Single Line: $0.20
Local Tax: 6%
Federal Tax: 3%
|Long distance||$.07/minute + $5 monthly fee||$.09/minute no monthly charge|
|Cellular phone service||OTZ cell service does not work in Kobuk. (GCI cell service does)|
64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
|*Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.|
The Kobuk School, a combined elementary, middle and secondary school facility, educates about 43 students per year from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The Kobuk School employs six professional educators.
Kobuk receives broadcasts from KOTZ, a public radio station based in Kotzebue. Many residents also frequently peruse the Arctic Sounder, a regional newspaper.
The Kobuk economy is based on a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Major food sources include caribou, moose and whitefish. The only year-round employers in Kobuk are the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, the City of Kobuk and Maniilaq Association. Construction and Bureau of Land Management firefighting provides seasonal income for some residents.
There are roughly 34 residential housing structures in Kobuk. Most are antiquated log buildings. About half of them are inhabited. The median home value in Kobuk is $103,100; the median rent is $950 per month. The average household family size is 4.9 inhabitants.