Port of Bethel
Cruising and Travel

The Port of Bethel offers a rich variety of outdoor sports - skiing, kayaking, bicycling, snow machining, hunting, and fishing. For three days each March, the Camai Dance Festival attracts hundreds of singers, drummers, and costumed dancers to perform traditional Yup'ik stories.

The Port of Bethel hosts a popular mid-distance dogsled race, the Kuskokwim 300, each January. The race follows an early mail route that at one time was the Port of Bethel's land-link to the outside world. Hundreds of sled dogs and the world's top mushers participate each year for a $100,000 purse.

The Port of Bethel has a subarctic climate with long cold winters and short mild summers. Temperatures average from a low of -14°C (6°F) in January to 13°C (56°F) in July. There are an average of 13 days each summer with temperatures above 21°C (70°F). Rain is greatest and most frequent during the summer, and light snows fall primarily in November and December, with an average 45 inches of snowfall per year.

Perhaps the most impressive visitor attraction at the Port of Bethel is the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge lands were first set aside in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt to fulfill treaty obligations, provide for continued subsistence use of resources, to ensure water quality and quantity, and to protect and conserve fish and wildlife populations and natural habitat. The Refuge shelters shore- and seabirds, tundra swans, geese, migratory birds, salmon, musk ox, and many marine mammals.

Covering some 22 million acres and including the Port of Bethel within its borders, the Refuge falls in the northern boreal zone of southwestern Alaska. It is mainly a broad flat delta containing many water bodies. It also contains two islands: the million-plus-acre volcanic Nunivak Island and Nelson Island.

Formed by the two biggest rivers in Alaska (the Yukon and the Kuskokwim), about half of the refuge is covered by water, and it boasts relatively pristine aquatic habitat. Most of the Yukon refuge consists of wetland/tundra habitat, but its most productive wildlife habitat is the coastal region on the Bering Sea.

The Refuge is open to hunting that conforms to state and federal regulation. A State hunting license is required. Big game is rare, but there are opportunities for bear, musk ox, and caribou. Waterfowl are plentiful. Subsistence fishing surpasses sport fishing throughout the Refuge, but all of the waters are open to fishing with a State fishing license. The most common anglers' catches include Pacific salmon, rainbow trout, and other species. Fishing areas are accessible by air, power boats, and river rafts. The Refuge is also open to licensed trapping of fur-bearing animals.

In addition to the Port of Bethel, the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge also offers limitless opportunities for viewing and photographing wildlife, even though it may expensive to travel from the Port of Bethel. Nunivak Island is home to Musk ox and reindeer. Waterfowl and shorebirds concentrate in the coastal areas. Inland rivers support moose and black bears. Brown bears, caribou, and wolves make the Kilbuck Mountains home.

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