Kotzebue is represented on the NANA Regional Corporation Board of Directors by Martha Whiting.


Kotzebue – Kikiktagruk, or “almost an island” in Iñupiaq – is located along three miles of a 1,100 to 3,600 – foot wide gravel spit on the Baldwin Peninsula, which extends into the Kotzebue Sound near the mouths of the Kobuk, Noatak and Selawik Rivers. Kotzebue is 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 549 air miles northwest of Anchorage. Kotzebue is a gateway to the region’s other communities, and to natural wonders such as the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the Noatak National Preserve and the Kobuk Valley National Park.

Iñupiat Eskimos have lived in the Kotzebue area for at least 600 years. Its coastal location at the terminus of three major rivers in northwestern Alaska made Kotzebue a major arctic trading hub long before European contact. Iñupiat from interior communities as well as visitors from the Russian Far East traveled to Kotzebue to trade furs, skins and seal oil, among other valuables. Commerce activity increased following the arrival of whalers, Russian fur traders, gold miners and missionaries. The federal government introduced reindeer herding to Kotzebue in 1897. Kotzebue was named for the Kotzebue Sound when a post office was established in the community in 1899. Throughout the 20th century, expanding economic activities and services in the area enabled Kotzebue to develop at a rapid pace to become the largest community in Northwest Alaska. Kotzebue was incorporated in 1958.

Kotzebue is the largest community in northwestern Alaska. Its rate of growth has accelerated over the years, raising the population from 200 residents in 1900 to 623 residents in 1950 to 3,082 residents in 2000. The current population is about 3,553. 71.2 percent of Kotzebue residents are Iñupiat Eskimos.

Kotzebue is incorporated with the State of Alaska, as a second-class city, and elects a mayor, vice mayor and city council. It is one of eleven communities of the Northwest Arctic Borough, and is the borough seat. The Native Village of Kotzebue is the local tribal government, as organized under the Indian Reorganization Act (amended for Alaska in 1936).

Kotzebue is located in a transitional climate zone characterized by long, cold winters and cool summers. Because of its coastal positioning and global warming trends, the Kotzebue climate is more temperate than elsewhere in northwestern Alaska. The average low temperature in winter months ranges from seven degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) to 12 degrees below zero. The average winter high temperatures range from two to nine degrees Fahrenheit. Summer lows range from 25 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, summer highs 50 to 60 degrees. Temperature extremes have been measured from 52 degrees below zero to 85 degrees above. The daily low temperature in Kotzebue dips below freezing around 250 days per year. Snowfall averages 40 inches per year, rainfall nine inches, with more than 100 days of precipitation per year. Kotzebue Sound is free of ice from early July to early October. Kotzebue topography consists of a gravel and tundra spit, low bushes and no trees.

Air – The Ralph Wien Memorial Airport is the only airport in the Northwest Arctic Borough that supports daily passenger jet service to Anchorage and Nome as well as regularly scheduled flights to outlying villages. The airport has a paved 6,000’ long primary runway and a 4,000’ crosswind gravel runway. Kotzebue also has a seaplane base. Round-trip tickets between Kotzebue and Anchorage on Alaska Airlines cost around $470 to $700. Tickets to Nome cost about $345. Approximate round-trip ticket prices from Kotzebue to villages in Northwest Alaska are as follows: Ambler, $400; Buckland, $260; Deering $260; Kiana, $290; Kivalina, $250; Kobuk, $450; Noatak, $280; Noorvik, $290; Selawik, $270; Shungnak, $400. All airfares approximate and subject to change according to season, timing of purchase, and other factors as determined by airlines.

Land – There are around 30 miles of roads in Kotzebue. Most are gravel, but several streets have been paved, to help keep dust down. Cars, trucks, ATVs and motorcycles travel these roads during the summer. Snow machines are the vehicles of choice during winter months for travel around Kotzebue as well as on the frozen Kotzebue Sound and the iced-over rivers leading away from town.

Water/Marine – Kotzebue is a major distribution and transshipment point for heavy equipment, fuel, building materials, food and other supplies that arrive from Seattle on massive deep draft freight vessels during the approximately 100 days when the Kotzebue Sound is navigable, usually early July to early October. Due to river sediments deposited by the Noatak River four miles above Kotzebue, the harbor is too shallow to allow large freighters to approach closer than 15 miles offshore. From there, cargo loads are lightered by shallow draft barges to shore and warehoused. The city is examining the feasibility of developing a deep-water port, since the cost of lightering the cargo 15 miles from the Kotzebue Sound is one-fourth of the total cost of barging cargo 3,000 miles away from Seattle. Kotzebue residents use small boats for recreation and subsistence activities as well as transporting small cargo loads to villages upriver.

Water – The Kotzebue public water is drawn from the 150-million-gallon Vortac Reservoir, located one-and-half miles from the city. Water from the reservoir is treated and then stored in a 1.5 million-gallon tank. To prevent freeze-up problems in the winter, the water is heated by a waste heat recovery system at the electric plant and then distributed in circulating mains. About 80 percent of households in Kotzebue are fully plumbed.

Sewer  Sewage is piped from the roughly 626 homes connected to the city system to a 32-acre zero discharge holding and treatment lagoon situated west of the airport. The remaining households utilize honeybuckets.

Solid Waste Disposal – The City of Kotzebue transports solid waste from dumpsters around town to a landfill with a compactor and baler. Recycling and hazardous waste disposal are likewise provided by the city.

Public Safety – The City of Kotzebue’s police department serves the city’s law enforcement needs, and operates the Kotzebue Regional Jail Facility, which holds prisoners from throughout the borough, as well as State of Alaska prisoners. The Kotzebue Fire Department is available to respond to emergencies, with staff and volunteer members. A detachment of Alaska State Troopers, tasked with serving the entire borough, is based in Kotzebue.

Health Services – The Maniilaq Health Center is the primary health care facility for all residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough, plus Point Hope. Newly rebuilt in 1994, the Maniilaq Health Center includes an emergency room with local and Medivac support for accident and trauma victims, as well as an Ambulatory Care clinic, a Dental Clinic, an Eye Clinic, a Pharmacy, a laboratory and an Inpatient wing with 24 beds for recovering patients. Furthermore the clinic houses a physical therapy department and offers a spectrum of radiology testing such as mammograms, ultrasounds, EKGs and X-Rays. When medical needs exceed the capabilities of the Health Center, patients are sent to the Alaska Native Medical Center, in Anchorage.

Electricity – The privately owned Kotzebue Electric Association supplies electricity to Kotzebue’s residents. Since 1997, windmills have been producing some electricity for the city, offsetting diesel use.

Summer 2012 rates

Residential Large Commercial
0.1721¢ per kWh + monthly service charge $15 .1555¢ per kWh + monthly service charge $75




Telecommunications – OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides a variety of landline, cellular phone and DSL Internet services to residents of Kotzebue.

Telephone service Residential Business
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 Plans range from $19.95 for 200 Alaska minutes to $44.95 for 1000 Nationwide minutes. Taxes not included. More options available.
Internet 256 Kbps download speed
1.5 Mbps download speed
*Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.

Kotzebue has two schools. The June Nelson Elementary School provides instruction for grades pre-Kindergarten through five. June Nelson has about 396 students per year and employs around 24 teachers. JNES has a playground, multipurpose room and a library. Kotzebue Middle/High School provides instruction for grades six through 12. KHMS employs around 24 teachers. The middle/high school has a full-size gym, library, a wood, engine, and metal shop room, a weight room and a music room. In addition to academic classes and electives, after school activities include basketball, volleyball, wrestling, Battle of the Books, student council, cross-country running, pep band, National Honor Society, cheerleading, science fair, yearbook, photography, Native Youth Olympics. The High School additionally offers a summer school program with classes in a range of sciences, Iñupiat Studies and Japanese Language, and others. The Alaska Technical Center provides post-secondary training in office management, administrative work, building maintenance and health occupations. The University of Alaska, Chukchi campus provides a variety of college and vocational courses both on-site and through teleconferencing.