2nd Class City
in the Bethel Census Area
- Area Type
- Current Population
- Population Comment
- 2013 DCCED Certified Estimate
- Pronunciation/Other Names
- (beth ul); a.k.a. Orutsararmuit
- Census Designated Place (CDP)
- Borough/Census Area FIPS Code
- Place FIPS
Election, Recording, and Judicial Districts
- Senate District
- House District
- Judicial District
- Recording District
Facilities and Amenities
- Municipal Facilities & Utilities
- Piped Water, Water Delivery, Piped Sewer, Tank Haul, Refuse Collection, Landfill, Dock/Port, Police, Fire/EMS/Ambulance, Roads, Ice Roads,Teen/Youth Center, Parks & Recreation, Planning, Business Licenses, Regional Dispatch Center, Cemetery, Skate Park, Baseball Fields, Harbor/Port, Transit
Geography and Climate
- Bethel is located at the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, 40 miles inland from the Bering Sea. It lies in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, 400 air miles west of Anchorage.
- Precipitation averages 16 inches a year, and snowfall averages 50 inches per year. Summer temperatures range from 42 to 62 °F. Winter temperatures range from -2 to 19 °F.
- Community Map Available
- Map URL
- Sq Mi Land
- Sq Mi Water
History and Culture
- Bethel was first established by Yup'ik Eskimos, who called the village "Mumtrekhlogamute," meaning "Smokehouse People," named for the nearby fish smokehouse. There were 41 people in Bethel during the 1880 U.S. Census. At that time, it was an Alaska Commercial Company Trading Post. The Moravian Church established a mission in the area in 1884. The community was moved to its present location due to erosion at the prior site. A post office was opened in 1905. Before long, Bethel was serving as a trading, transportation, and distribution center for the region, which attracted Natives from surrounding villages. The city was incorporated in 1957. Over time, federal and state agencies established regional offices in Bethel.
- The region is fortunate in that rapid development did not occur before the importance of protecting Native culture was realized. The traditional Yup'ik Eskimo practices and language remain predominant in the area. Subsistence activities and commercial fishing are major contributors to residents' livelihoods.
- Federally Recognized Tribe
- Name of Federally Recognized Tribe
- Orutsararmuit Native Village
- Incorporation Type
- 2nd Class City
- Public Education
- Not permitted to provide this service.
- Planning, Platting and Land Use Regulation
- Not required to exercise the powers in any circumstance, but may be permitted in all cases in the manner described for first class cities.
- Property Tax Powers
- May tax up to 20 mills, except where a higher levy is required to avoid default. Voter approval required.
- Sales Tax Powers
- No limit on the rate of levy of sales taxes; however, voter approval is required.
- Other Powers Not Prohibited
- May exercise other powers not prohibited by law.
- City Council or Assembly Composition and Apportionment
- 7 members elected at-large, except the council may provide for election other than at-large.
- Election and Term of Mayor
- Elected from the city council for a 1-year term, unless a longer term is provided by ordinance. Mayor selected by council (or by voters upon adoption of ordinance).
- Vote by Mayor
- Votes on all matters.
- Veto Power of the Mayor
- Does not have veto power.
- Power of Eminent Domain
- Permitted, but requires voter approval.
- Ability to Attain Home-Rule Status
- May not adopt home-rule charter without first reclassifying to a first-class city.
- Bethel is the regional transportation hub for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the main port on the Kuskokwim River. Bethel has 38 miles of public roads and is connected by road to several nearby villages during the summer. A 28-mile ice road along the Kuskokwim River connects the community with neighboring villages in the winter. The Bethel Airport is the third busiest in the state, with daily service to and from Anchorage and 56 surrounding villages. Bethel maintains a medium-draft port for ocean-going vessels, as well as the Bethel cargo dock, a petro port, a small boat harbor, a float plane beach and a seawall. Transportation within the community is served by taxi and a public transit system. A series of traditional trails provide access within the city and to nearby communities. Trail users walk, ride bicycles, or use ATVs during the summer and rely on snowmachines, dog teams, or cross country skis in the winter.
- State Ferry
- Cargo Barge
- Road Connection