Bethel AK is a remote city on the western coast of Alaska, approximately 400 miles from Anchorage, to the west, one of Alaska’s largest cities. You can only reach it by river and air, and it is the biggest Kuskokwim River port, and it is a transportation and administrative hub for over 50 villages.
The city is the biggest city in western Alaska, and it is in the top ten of the largest communities of the state. The population is a little above 6,000. It also has the only jail in the southwestern part of Alaska. A couple of years ago, the city go out of the “Local Option” status, and that possibly opens the door for them to allow sales of alcohol there. However, residents as well as city officials say that any requests for liquor licenses will be turned down.
The city has about 48 square miles, and 43 square miles is land, and 5 square miles is water.The geography is treeless, and it has hardly any trees. It’s right next to the second biggest wildlife preserve in the U.S., the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
Bethel has a climate called “subarctic”, and it has extremely cold winters that are long, sort of snowy, and there’s hardly any reprieve in the summers because they’re short and mild. Monthly daily temperature averages are between six degrees in January to 56 degrees in July, and the average annual temperature is 39 degrees. Warm days over 70 degrees are expected in just 13 days of the summer. The most precipitation is usually in the summertime, and there are about 16 inches each year. Snowfall often comes in small bouts, and it is much greater in December and November compared to February and January, and there are about 45 inches in every season. Temperature extremes vary from -48 degrees to 90 degrees.
Culture and arts
There are traditional dancers that come from all across the state and beyond the state that participate in the Camai Dance Festival in March. There are singers, drummers, and costumed dancers that number in the hundreds. They all work on performing traditional Yupik story dances throughout the festival which goes for three days. “Camai” is translated to “a warm hello.”
There is a bimonthly “Saturday Market” and crafters and artisans go to offer their arts and crafts there. There are a ton of different things there, and there are a lot of woven baskets, story knives, and traditional Yupik qaspeq.
Bethel has only one sister city that is official. It is Anadyr, Chukotka Autnomous Okrgu, Russian Federation.
Yearly Bethel events are a dogsled race, Camai, and the Bethel Fair. Camai is a dance festival that has Yupik dances that’s traditional in the spring.
The city is the site of a dogsled race called the Kuskokwim 300. It stars every January, and it’s been going since 1980, and the race memorializes an early route for mail that at one time connected the city to other parts of the world. The top mushers and 100s of sled dogs run in this amazing race for a prize of $100,000. It’s the largest prize offered by any sled dog race. Some recreational acitivities like salmon fishing, caribou hunting, kayaking, bicycling, skiing, and snow machining are prevalent.