Below is the text of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
brochure. The complete brochure with color photos is available in PDF format (6.7 meg file).
You may request a printed copy by sending a
brochure request via email, or by writing
to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 101 12th Ave., Room 236, Fairbanks AK 99701.
Description of the Refuge:
Refuge Brochure Text
"This is the place for man turned scientist and explorer; poet and artist. Here he can experience
a new reverence for life that is outside his own and yet a vital and joyous part of it."
[William O. Douglas, US Supreme Court Justice, 1939-1975]
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a vast and beautiful wilderness, one unique in
North America. Unique because it has a full range of arctic and subarctic ecosystems.
Unique also because the systems are whole and undisturbed, functioning as they have
for centuries, largely free of human control and manipulation.
Inupiat Eskimos and Athabascan Indians live in this place, following their ancestors
who survived here for generations.
A Northern Frontier
One of the world's most remote natural areas, the Arctic Refuge
is a frontier--perhaps America's
last--like those that helped shape America's distinct cultural heritage. Here conditions
exist like those that once surrounded and shaped us--as individuals and as a Nation.
"This wilderness is big enough and wild enough to make you feel like one of the
old-time explorers . . ." [Lowell Sumner, Refuge Founder]
A Conservation Legacy
The move to protect this corner of Alaska began in the early 1950s. Visionary conservationists
George Collins, Lowell Sumner, and Olaus and Mardy Murie, considered founders of the Refuge,
launched a spirited campaign to permanently safeguard the area. Their effort mobilized
thousands, including conservation leaders, sportsmen's groups, garden clubs and individuals.
The effort succeeded.
The Arctic National Wildlife Range was established in 1960. This designation was a
promise to the American people to preserve the area's "unique wildlife, wilderness and
recreational values." Twenty years later, Congress passed the "Alaska Lands Act." The
Act renamed the area and more than doubled its size. Today the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge includes nearly 20 million acres (the size of South Carolina), three Wild rivers,
and the largest designated Wilderness (eight million acres) in the National Wildlife
The Act also authorized a study of the oil and gas potential of the northern part of
the Refuge (1002 Area--see map on inside back cover). This touched off an epic
conservation battle that continues to this day.
"It is a whole place, as true a wilderness as there is anywhere on this continent
and unlike any other that I know of." [Morris Udall, Former U.S. Congressman]
Mountains to Meadows
The majestic Brooks Range, with peaks and glaciers to 9,000 feet, dominates the
Refuge. These rugged mountains extend east to west in a band 75 miles wide, rising
abruptly from a flat, tundra-covered plain. This treeless expanse is cut by numerous
braided rivers and streams. South of the continental divide, rivers wind serpentine
courses through broad, spruce-covered valleys dotted with lakes and sloughs.
Rich and Fragile Habitats
The Refuge includes an array of landscapes and wildlife habitats--from the boreal
forest of the Porcupine River uplands . . . to the foothills and slopes of the Brooks
Range . . . to the arctic tundra of the coastal plain . . . to the lagoons and barrier
islands of the Beaufort Sea coast. Together these areas contain hundreds of species of
mosses, grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and other plants.
The ground lies permanently frozen below much of the Refuge. This impenetrable "permafrost"
layer causes many areas to remain wet during the summer. Plants grow rapidly with 24-hour
daylight, but the growing season is short. These factors make the Refuge a fragile area
easily impacted by human activities. In this most northern of refuges, plant communities
take a long time to recover from disturbances.
Wildlife--A Special Mix
The Refuge contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area in the
circumpolar north. The animals are well adapted to the arctic, able to withstand a range
of extreme environmental conditions. Some species are at the northern limit of their range.
Many depend on the Refuge's undisturbed wilderness.
Nearly 180 species of birds have been seen on the Arctic Refuge. They come from four
continents to breed, rest or feed. A majority nest on the Refuge.
Nesting and related activities occur April to July, depending on the species. Owls and
jaegers cruise low over the tundra hunting for lemmings. Golden eagles, rough-legged
hawks and peregrine falcons build aeries high on cliffs. Loons and oldsquaw sound their
yodeling calls from coastal lagoons. Pairs of tundra swans dine on submerged plants in
the quiet lakes of river deltas. Sandpipers, plovers and sparrows tend well-camouflaged
nests on the open tundra.
In July, ducks and shorebirds start gathering in lagoons and lakes to prepare for migration.
In late August, thousands of snow geese arrive on the coastal plain to feed on cottongrass,
building fat reserves for their journey south. By mid-September, most birds depart for
wintering areas in Asia, Africa, South America, the South Pacific and every state except
Hawaii. Ptarmigan, ravens, gyrfalcons, dippers and a few other species remain to winter
in the long arctic night.
Forty-five species of mammals live on the Refuge--thirty-six occur on land, nine are
marine species that can be seen along the coast. Some are herd animals, many are not.
Some migrate, most do not. All rely on the unconfined open spaces of the Refuge.
Each year the Porcupine caribou herd journeys more than 800 miles to and from its ancestral
calving grounds. In May and June, the herd migrates to the coastal plain to give birth. By
early July, the caribou leave for wintering areas south of the Brooks Range.
Groups of agile Dall sheep roam the mountainsides, grazing tundra plants and watching
for predators. Moose browse willow thickets near rivers and lakes. Herds of shaggy muskoxen
forage year-round on the coastal plain, mostly along rivers. Polar bears dig maternity dens
in snow drifts during winter, returning to the sea ice in spring to hunt seals.
Age-old struggles for survival continue on the Refuge just as they always have. Grizzly bears
chase ground squirrels, digging like backhoes into their burrows. Wolf packs pursue caribou
and moose, seeking those unable to keep up or defend themselves. Lynx zig-zag through the
forest after snowshoe hares. Weasels and fox pounce on voles and lemmings. Lone wolverines
scavenge the leftovers.
The Refuge provides habitat for 36 species of fish, mostly in the rich coastal lagoons.
Several coastal plain rivers contain arctic char and grayling. Many rivers south of the
mountains support grayling, northern pike and whitefish.
A Wilderness for the Ages
The Arctic Refuge is recognized as one of the finest examples of wilderness left on the
planet. It is among the last to be visited by modern man and among the least affected by his
doings. It's a place where the wild has not been taken out of the wilderness.
Untold mountains, diverse wildlife and a wealth of habitats give this unspoiled
national treasure first-rate cultural, scenic, scientific and experiential values.
Values that are ageless. Values that make the Refuge a national symbol of wilderness.
The Refuge is a place that changes those who visit. It's a place that is precious to
millions who never will. It's a place whose existence strengthens our awareness of and
sense of responsibility for the natural world.
"The Arctic has a strange stillness to it that no other wilderness knows. It has loneliness
too--a feeling of isolation and remoteness born of vast spaces . . ." [William O. Douglas,
US Supreme Court Justice, 1939-1975]
Protecting the Values
The entire Refuge is managed to maintain its natural condition, diversity of wildlife and
habitats, scenery and other special values. Management efforts focus primarily on surveys,
research studies, monitoring and education.
"It takes a lot of territory to keep this alive, a living wilderness for scientific
observation and for aesthetic inspiration" [Olaus Murie, Refuge Founder]
Refuge employees survey wildlife and plants to determine their abundance and productivity.
The information helps ensure the long-term health of wildlife populations and habitats while
allowing for human use.
Employees cooperate with others on research, gathering information about the Refuge and the
effects of human disturbance in the arctic. They seek to minimize the impacts of human
activities on refuge resources, values and visitors through education, monitoring and law
Visiting the Refuge
Snow usually blankets the ground from September through May, but freezing temperatures
can occur any month, especially north of the mountains. Summers last only from June
through August. Strong winds, cool temperatures, clouds and fog are typical near the
coast. Blue skies, variable winds and moderate temperatures are more common inland. Areas
south of the mountains have more rainfall, greater temperature extremes and lighter winds.
The Refuge is roadless, so primary access is by air. Most visitors fly scheduled aircraft
from Fairbanks to Fort Yukon, Kaktovik or Deadhorse, then charter to a river gravel bar or
tundra landing site. Flights can be delayed due to weather, so take extra food. Please work
with the pilot to minimize impacts of your flights on the land, the wildlife and visitors.
The Refuge contains archeological sites important to local Native communities. Laws and regulations
prohibit disturbing such sites and taking artifacts (Archaeological Resources Protection Act, as amended (16U.S.C. 470aa-470mm); and 50 CFR 27.62). If you come upon a site, leave
it undisturbed for others to discover and enjoy as you have.
Be sensitive to the needs and customs of the local people. Many continue their hunting,
trapping, fishing and gathering activities.
The Arctic Refuge, almost all of it north of the Arctic Circle, can challenge and inspire
even the most experienced backcountry user. It's a place of discovery and adventure; a place
for solitude; a place to be self-reliant and close to nature. It's a place to experience
wildness in a truly unaltered environment.
"This land seems to be forever unfolding new surprises." [John Milton, Ecologist]
Patience, binoculars, long lenses and knowledge of the animals will increase your chances
of seeing and photographing wildlife without affecting their normal activities. Most animals
are inactive at mid-day, so you will likely see more in early morning, evening and at "night."
Rivers are the main travel routes on the Refuge. Rafts are suggested because they are most
easily transported in aircraft and can most safely negotiate the rivers. Water levels are
adequate on major rivers from mid-June to mid-August. By mid to late-July, the sea ice is
usually open enough to allow travel through the coastal lagoons.
Hiking and Camping
Much of the adventure and challenge of hiking and camping on the Refuge lies in choosing
the route you'll take, the things you'll do and the places you'll sleep. Learn the rhythms
of the place--the light, the wildlife and the weather--then adjust your pace and schedule
to meet them.
"Here there are no man-made trails . . . parking lots, visitor centers . . . that
we've all seen within other public parks and refuges. . . . Within the Arctic Refuge
expect to meet nature on her wildest terms." [Debbie Miller, Author]
Hunting and Fishing
Hunters can pursue, under state and federal laws, a variety of big and small game
animals including caribou, bear, sheep, waterfowl and ptarmigan. Those who fish should
consider catch and release to help conserve slow growing fish populations.
"In the Arctic Refuge the primal landscape is the overriding thing. It's like a museum, a time
machine experience that can transport you back . . . before the world was altered. To hunt in
that context is a profound experience." [Sandy Jamieson, Refuge Visitor]
The Refuge is a very remote area. Be prepared to handle any situation completely on
your own. Proper planning and good equipment will increase the chances of a safe and
enjoyable trip. Topographic maps and emergency supplies are essential.
"The freedom of the wilderness is freedom from civilization's controls . . . In such
terrain, self-reliance is forced upon you." [John Milton, Ecologist]
Watch for bears and other potentially dangerous wildlife. Avoidance is the key. Make
noise when hiking, keep a clean camp, cook/eat away from tents and stay off game trails.
Carry insect repellent and a head net; mosquitos are prevalent in June and July.
Know how to safely cross rivers. Cross in their upper reaches and early in the day. Take
day hikes on the same side of the river as your camp. Remember that rivers rise rapidly
after rains and glacial rivers rise on warm days.
Wear life jackets (with pockets for survival gear) when floating or crossing rivers, lakes
and lagoons. Survival time is brief in the icy waters of the arctic.
Preserve the Legacy
Explore this wilderness on its own terms. Make demands on yourself, not the land. Leave no
trace of your presence; pack out what you pack in. Help ensure that the qualities you
experience on the Refuge will be there for those who follow.
"Certainly a wilderness area, a little portion of our planet left alone . . . will
furnish us with a number of very important uses. . . . If we are wise, we will cherish what we
have left of such places in our land." [Olaus Murie, Refuge Founder]
Our Nationwide System
The Arctic Refuge is held in trust for current and future generations as a vital part
of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The System consists of more than 500 refuges
whose primary purpose is wildlife conservation. People are encouraged to use and enjoy
refuges in ways compatible with this purpose.
National Wildlife Refuges are found across the Nation from northern Alaska to the Florida
Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific.
September 12, 2008