A visit to Nome and the Seward Peninsula brings you to the origins of the Americas’ indigenous populations. It was here that several great migrations took place from Asia to North America, across the Bering Land Bridge. The route was made possible by lowered sea levels, which exposed a land passage ranging up to 1,000 miles wide, linking what is now Russia to the Seward Peninsula of Alaska. The dry steppe of this area was populated by woolly mammoths, lions, scimitar cats, and small horses. When and how the first people came through is still unclear to scientists. But based on recent archeological finds, we know that hunters were exploring the area as far back as 12,000 years ago.
While in Nome, you can learn more, view artifacts and get as close as you can to the migratory pathways of those adventurous travelers – the ancestors of all Native peoples in North, Central and South America.
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve headquarters:
Stop by the Visitor Center, on the 1st floor of the Sitnasuak Building at 214 Front St., for more information about the preserve. Check out interpretive displays and life-size skulls and pelts, catch a movie about Iñupiat culture, and chat with a National Park Ranger about the best way to travel into the preserve, located 100 miles north of Nome.
A beautiful drive 70 miles up the Nome-Teller highway offers wildlife viewing on the way, with opportunities to spot large groups of reindeer, musk oxen, golden eagles, and willow and rock ptarmigan. The small, friendly Inupiat village of Teller greets you at the end of the road. Teller sits on a natural harbor and is as close as you can drive to the Bering Strait. Once you arrive, look east. Russia is just 55 miles away. It’s also across the International Date Line, so you’re actually looking into the future (it’s already tomorrow over there!). At the same time, you’re looking into the past, if you can imagine this area without any water, with rolling tundra, tall grasses, mammoths, and more.
Serpentine Hot Springs:
Serpentine Hot Springs is located within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, about 120 miles northeast of Nome. Here it’s easy to find markers of the volcanic activity that shaped this area thousands of years ago, with towering rock formations (called tors), and the therapeutic hot springs. This area has been an important site to local people for many years. Hike among the tors, soak in the springs, and stay the night in the bunkhouse, whose walls are covered with the names of visitors who came before you. This is remote and wild Alaska, with few amenities, so getting here takes planning. A short landing strip allows access by authorized air carriers and private aircraft. For the intrepid and well-prepared traveler, it’s possible to get here in winter by dog sled or snowmobile. In summer, you can drive 85 miles to the end of the Nome-Kougarak road, and bike and hike to the hot springs. Call the National Park Service headquarters before you arrive in Nome to research your transportation possibilities.