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Location/Climate: At mouth of Kuskokwim River, 90 miles from Bering Sea, 400 air miles west of Anchorage. 16"/yr. precip., 50"/yr. snowfall, -2°F62°F.
Population: 5,195 (63.9 percent native, mainly Yupik Eskimo).
Travel Attractions: Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
Getting There: Scheduled air service from Anchorage and other points.
Information: Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 329, Bethel, AK 99559, 543-2911, www.bethelchamber.com.
With about 5,200 residents, Bethel has grown from its roots as a Yupik Eskimo village into the largest Alaskan town with no access by road or ferry. Its situated near the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, 90 estuarine miles inland from the Bering Sea. The Yupik name "Mumtrekhlogamute" ("Smokehouse People") was changed to Bethel when the Moravian Church established the Bethel Mission in 1885.
Yupik traditions live on in town. Many residents continue to speak the native language, and subsistence wildlife harvesting remains economically important. With the towns status as a regional hub for 56 delta villages, many are employed in government, transport, shipping, medical, and native corporation jobs.
Cheap air service from Anchorage makes Bethel the logical base for explorations of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Nunivak Island. About seven flights connect Anchorage and Bethel daily. Reeve Aleutian flies from Bethel to Saint Paul Island three times a week, while Yute Air links Bethel and Dillingham daily. Regular air-taxi flights serve a number of delta villages while charter services offer tour, drop-off, and pick-up options (see the Appendix).
Things to See and Do in Bethel
Yupik Cultural CenterHeritage exhibits include clothing, figures, ivory carvings, tools, and other artifacts. The center is adjacent to the community firehall.
Moravian Church and BookstoreBuilt in 1959, this now unsound structure hearkens to Bethels colonial heritage. It was Moravian missionaries who gave the town its modern name. The Moravian Bookstore, 543-2474, is a good stop for unusual gift items (open MondaySaturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Both are found at 3rd and Main.
Where to Stay and Eat in Bethel
Alices Restaurant, center of town, 543-2272. Friendly and tasty, but you wont find Arlo Guthrie.
Bentleys Porter House Bed & Breakfast, 624 1st Avenue, Bethel, AK 99559, 543-3552. Very clean rooms $90$120.
Datu Place, 272 Tundra Street, 543-2216, features tasty Chinese food at decent prices.
Glorias Deli, center of town, 543-4403. Located at the Alaska Commercial Co. grocery.
Pacifica Guest House, 1200 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, 543-4305. Rooms $100$160. Easily my favorite lodging choice in Bethel. Features Dianes Cafe, the nicest place to eat in town.