"Bethel - Gateway to the Kuskokwim Bush" Bethel by AlbuqRay

Bethel Travel Guide: 38 reviews and 138 photos

Visit to the Alaskan Bush Country

I don't know about Bethel being "Paris on the Kuskokwim" but it is definitely unique. Bethel is a town of ~6,000 people about 40 miles up the Kuskokwim River, the longest free flowing river in the United States. It is the gateway to the rest of the world for 56 villages in the surrounding area. It does have a small university and a medium-draft port for barges. Wikipedia has a good writeup on Bethel and a guy from Bethel, Gary Peltola, has a good web page with general information and lots of pics. Having a university in a town always brings many cultural benefits and Bethel is no exception.

People ask me why I chose Bethel, so here it is... When I used to coach my daughter's soccer team in Albuquerque, I had two players from Bethel. One still lives in Albuquerque but has family in Bethel, and the other now lives in Bethel full time. They always said I would love Bethel if I visited. Based on their recommendations, I decided to visit. Okay, okay, so I waited 14 years, but I found out they were right! The scenery is beautiful in its own way but is not as spectacular as places like Homer, Seldovia and Seward; however, the real beauty is that the people are wonderful! It was like going back in time. It reminded me of when I was a boy in Oklahoma in the 1950's. People are so friendly, helpful and trusting. Most don't even lock their homes or cars. I know you may have never experienced that kind of attitude, but I highly recommend it. You will then understand why Bethel is so special. Although the weather was bad part of the time, I still had great fun experiencing the Alaskan bush country.

Moravian Church

I had never heard of the Moravian Church until a few months ago, when my niece, who lives in Pen Argyl, PA, decided to go to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. It was not related but I subsequently end up going to Bethel, AK, which has a considerable history with Moravian influence (including the name, Bethel).

Wikipedia tells us that what is now Bethel was a Yup'ik village called Mamterillermiut, meaning "Smokehouse People," after the nearby fish smokehouse at a location on the east side of the river. The United States purchased Alaska for $7.2M in 1867. The village had an Alaska Commercial Company trading post during the late 1800s, and had a population of 41 people in the 1880 U.S. Census. The Moravian Church under the leadership of Rev. John Henry Kilbuck, Jr. established a mission in the area in 1885. Kilbuck learned Yup'ik, which greatly enhanced his effectiveness as a missionary. The missionaries named the village, Bethel, and moved it from the Mamterillermiut location to its present location on the west side of the Kuskokwim River. A United States Post Office was opened in 1905.

Long Summer Days

This picture was taken at 10:17 PM on 12 Aug 07 right before sunset. This is the lake where they used to dump their honey buckets, McDonalds Lake, but no more. I took the picture from the upstairs kitchen window in Bentley's Porter House. Can you believe how light it is? However, the daylight was getting shorter by 6 minutes each day. The Catholic Church is on the opposite side. You can read a nice article about the church and Bethel by Fr. Richard G. Malloy from Saint Joseph's University, who visited in 2006. By its location relatively near to the mouth of Brown's Slough, I am sure the Catholic Church also had an important role in Bethel's history since first being constructed in 1943.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Friendly trusting people and diverse culture
  • Cons:Expensive and transportation limitations
  • In a nutshell:Reminds me of the good old days
  • Last visit to Bethel: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated Oct 11, 2007
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Reviews (37)

Comments (4)

  • Mar 18, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    The man working at Anvil was absolutely RUDE when my husband went in to buy ammunition. He caters only to the native population and makes it well known. He should be ashamed of the way he treated my husband and we will NEVER shop there again!

  • gilabrand's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    Eskimo ice cream is made out of fish??? Doesn't sound too good...LOL

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2009 at 7:42 PM

    Great page and Bentley's Porter House: Millie's Place looks very interesting. That blue color does give it some charm!

  • RickinDutch's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2007 at 2:35 PM

    Nice Job Ray! Almost got to meet you in Anchorage - couldn't quite swing it. Next time?

AlbuqRay

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