Bethel represents a blending of new and traditional, as it serves as the main Regional hub for the people in Western Alaska. This community of around 6,000 people is the ninth largest in Alaska. Fifty-six surrounding villages rely on Bethel as a primary transportation center for both residents and cargo.
The busy Bethel Airport is the second busiest in the state for cargo volume, supports multiple airline carriers and sees thousands of visitors yearly. In 2010, more than 144,000 people flew through the Bethel Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The medium sized Port of Bethel services barges providing fuel and goods to communities along the Kuskokwim River.
The Kuskokwim River has long been an important resource for the city. In the late 1800’s, missionaries moved the city from its original spot, to its current location on the west bank of the Kuskokwim River, about 400 air miles west of Anchorage. Its original Yup’ik inhabitants called the village Mamteriilleq , meaning Smokehouse People, after nearby smokehouses that housed salmon caught from local streams and rivers.
The city’s location makes it a perfect hub and its landscape also benefits both residents and visitors. It’s surrounded by the 20-million acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the second largest wildlife refuge in the country. Every spring, two million waterfowl descend on the tundra and marshes, creating a birders paradise.
Bethel is home to the only detention center in Southwest Alaska, the Association of Village Council Presidents, AVCP Regional Housing Authority and the largest health care organization. The Yukon Kuskokwim Heath Corporation serves the entire Calista Region and includes community clinics, dental services and behavioral health services.
On September 28, Bethel will host the Calista Corporation Annual Meeting of Shareholders at the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik gym.