Great Land of Alaska

Rural Alaskan Towns

Most of Alaska's communities are inaccessible by any means other than airplane and, in several cases, boat. Most of these communities are populated mostly by Native Alaskans who live a lifestyle that combines traditional values and practices with the modern western way of life. A few of these communities have economies that depend a lot upon tourism, whereas most of them rarely see visitors from outside.

Mountain Village/Asaacarsaq

Mountain Village panorama Mountain Village in January
Mountain Village in April Ice piling up on the beach
Mountain Village from the air

Mountain Village is a small community built on the southern end of the Nulato Hills mountain range. The vast majority of the town's inhabitants are Yup'ik Eskimo. This town, like many rural Alaskan communities, is physically isolated from the rest of Alaska. The town can be reached only by air and boat, or only by air during the winter. Communication satellites have reduced some of the isolation, as the town has cable TV, telephone service, and internet access.

Barrow

Noon sun in Barrow Noon sun in Barrow

Barrow is Alaska's northernmost community, and the world's largest Eskimo community. It is located well above the Arctic Circle along the Arctic Ocean coast. Its northern location means that the sun does not rise at all during a couple months of the winter, and does not set during a couple months during summer.

Kotlik

Kotlik from the air Kotlik airport
Kotlik's boardwalks Schoolyard boardwalk
Part of the Yukon in Kotlik Part of the Yukon in Kotlik

Kotlik is another Yup'ik community located not too far away from Mountain Village. It's located on one of the many tributaries of the Yukon River as it begins to branch out before draining into the Bering Sea. Like many small villages located in flat areas along rivers, part of the village is on the other side of the river which makes getting to the main part of town difficult during fall freeze-up or spring break-up when the river is dangerous to cross. The airport, shown in the second picture, is typical of many small Alaskan towns--not much more than a gravel strip with a widened area large enough for a few airplanes to park and load/unload. Kotlik has no roads at all and is built on marshy ground. Wooden walkways join many of the town's houses and buildings together. Even the school playground (4th picture) is a large wooden platform.

Seldovia

Seldovia is a small Sugpiaq village located on the southern shore of Kachemak Bay, across the bay from Homer. In August of 2012, I spent a week chaperoning some youth at a culture camp. During that week we camped on the beach across a small bay from Sedovia.

Downtown Seldovia
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Downtown Seldovia
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Downtown Seldovia
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Inns overlooking bay
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Inns overlooking bay
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Seldovia boat harbor
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Despite being a somewhat rural community, Seldovia is short airplane or boat ride away and so receives many visitors during the summer tourist season. Therefore, the town is pretty visitor-friendly with a paved main road, accessible shops, a hotel, and several inns and bed & breakfasts.
Old worm-eaten piling
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Decayed barge on shore
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Old rusted drum on beach
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Many artifacts from Seldovia's recent history are found on the beaches and shores, including old worm-eaten pilings, abandoned barges, and discarded incinerators.
SeldoviaFromShore
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Seldovia seen through arch
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A couple views of Seldovia from across the bay, from the beach and through the arch at Elephant Rock.

Tyonek

Tyonek is a small Dena'ina Athabascan village located on the western shores of Tikahtnu (Cook Inlet). In May of 2010, I had an opportunity to take a work-related trip to Tyonek to participate in the Open Arms Gathering. I went with three co-workers and five youths from our youth programs. We did an Intertribal Drum performance as well as participated in other activities.

Streets of Tyonek Streets of Tyonek
Streets of Tyonek Houses of Tyonek
Houses of Tyonek Houses of Tyonek
Houses of Tyonek School and houses

Several houses and streets of Tyonek. Like many rural communities, the streets are all gravel.

Tyonek Airport Tyonek Airport

The airport at Tyonek, like many other rural communitiy airports, is little more than a gravel strip only about 3,000 feet 914 meters) long.

Tyonek beach

The gravely beach of Tyonek with some houses in the background.

Boat on the beach

An old boat sitting on the beach at Tyonek.

Smokehouse

A smokehouse sitting on a bluff near the beach.

Logs across stream

Three of the youth we traveled to Tyonek with using some large driftwood logs to cross a stream on the Tyonek beach.

Tyonek Cemetery

Some of our program youths and their friends contemplate crossing a small stream with the Tyonek cemetery in the background.

Trail through trees

This was once a road through a small valley, but now is just a small foot trail taken as a shortcut from one road to another. It also passes a small stream and pond that is a popular fishing area in Tyonek.

Corey running an obstacle course Corey running an obstacle course
Jonny flying a kite Kites at softball field

One of the activities at the Open Arms Gathering included an obstacle course where the participants must wear a dress and carry a purse while running through the course, and flying kites.

Arial view of the school Arial shot of Tyonek

Tyonek as seen from the air.


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