Koyukuk is a Koyukon Athabascan village located on the Yukon River near the mouth of the Koyukuk River, 30 miles west of Galena and 290 air miles west of Fairbanks. It lies adjacent to the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge and the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge.
Official Tribal Name: Koyukuk Native Village
Address: PO Box 49, Koyukuk, AK 99754
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Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Alaskan Ethnic Group: Indians
Alaskan Native Culture: Koyukon Athabascans
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Koyukuk is located on the Yukon River near the mouth of the Koyukuk River, 30 miles west of Galena and 290 air miles west of Fairbanks. It lies adjacent to the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge and the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge.
The Koyukon Athabascans traditionally had spring, summer, fall, and winter camps and moved as the wild game migrated. There were 12 summer fish camps located on the Yukon River between the Koyukuk River and the Nowitna River. Friendships and trading between the Koyukon and Inupiat Eskimos of the Kobuk area occurred for generations.
A Russian trading post was established at nearby Nulato in 1838. A smallpox epidemic, the first of several major epidemics, struck the Koyukon in 1839. A military telegraph line was constructed along the north side of the Yukon around 1867, and Koyukuk became the site of a telegraph station. A trading post opened around 1880, just before the gold rush of 1884-85.
The population of Koyukuk at this time was approximately 150.
Missionary activity was intense along the Yukon, and a Roman Catholic mission and school opened downriver in Nulato in 1887. A post office operated from 1898 to 1900. Steamboats on the Yukon, which supplied gold prospectors, peaked in 1900 with 46 boats in operation.
A measles epidemic and food shortages during 1900 tragically reduced the Native population by one-third. Gold seekers left the Yukon after 1906, but other mining activity, such as the Galena lead mines, began operating in 1919.
The first school was constructed in 1939. After the school was built, families began to live at Koyukuk year-round.
The city was incorporated in 1973.
The community has experienced severe flooding from both the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers, and residents want to relocate.
As of 2012, the village population was 95. Residents are primarily Koyukon Athabascans.
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The area experiences a cold, continental climate with extreme temperature differences. The average daily high temperature during July is in the low 70s; the average daily low temperature during January ranges from 10 to below 0 °F. Sustained temperatures of -40 °F are common during winter. Extreme temperatures have been measured from -64 to 92 °F.
Annual precipitation averages 13 inches, with 60 inches of snowfall annually. The river is ice-free from mid-May through mid-October.
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