Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge In southwest Alaska, the waters of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers flow through a vast treeless plain, or tundra, that forms the heart of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Almost 70% of this 22 million acre refuge is below 100 feet in elevation, and consists of a broad, flat delta stitched through with rivers and streams and dotted with countless lakes, sloughs, and ponds. Bordering this expanse of tundra and wetlands are forest and shrub habitat and uplands sporting mountains more than 4000 feet high. The refuge also includes two large islands - Nelson and Nunivak.
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is among the most populated rural areas in Alaska. There are 35 villages and nearly 25,000 Yup’ik Eskimo people make the delta their home. This is a region rich in culture, where residents depend on resources to support an active subsistence way of life.
Yukon Delta Refuge is famed for its waterfowl. Without question, the refuge supports one of the largest aggregations of water birds in the world. A spectacle takes place every spring as millions of ducks, geese, and other water birds return to the refuge to nest. But a vision of the refuge must be much broader than waterfowl. It supports one of the most important shorebird nesting areas in the United States in terms of both density and species diversity. Hundreds of miles of rivers and streams provide spawning and rearing habitat for 44 species of fish, including all five North American Pacific salmon. Drier upland habitats harbor populations of both brown and black bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and muskox. Along the coast of the refuge, the waters of the Bering Sea host a variety of marine mammals, including whales which pass during migration.