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Plan Your Visit

CampsiteOne of the most remote refuges in America, the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge provides a place for solitude and exploration.  From abandoned mining towns to abundant wildlife, there is ample opportunity to discover the Alaska not covered in guidebooks.

 

Visiting the Refuge
 

By Air

USFWS floatplaneLike much of rural Alaska, the Innoko Refuge is not accessible by car since there are no roads in this part of the country. Access is typically by small airplanes equipped for water landings (floatplanes) during the spring, summer, and fall. Winter access is by small ski planes, snowmobile or dogsled, when ice and snow conditions are adequate. Most visitors reach the refuge using privately owned aircraft, commercial guiding & outfitting services, or commercial air taxi operators. Many of the outfitting services and air taxis operate out of the village of McGrath, which is served by commercial airlines out of Anchorage. For more information on current outfitters and transporters, contact the refuge office in McGrath.

 

By River

 

Boats parked on river at GraylingAccessing the refuge by boat requires a little more planning. It is a 111-mile boat trip from the mouth of the Innoko River to the southern refuge boundary. During high water, boaters can also enter from the Yukon River through Holikachuk Slough. From the east, boaters can access the upper Innoko River at the abandoned mining town of Ophir, though low water may be encountered in late summer. Take a look at our refuge map for more detailed information. Watercraft transportable by small aircraft, such as inflatable rafts and folding kayaks, can be used for transportation within the refuge and offer unique opportunity for wildlife viewing.

Innoko Refuge is open to a number of recreational opportunities. Check out our visitor activities page to learn more.

 

Commercial Use

 

All commercial activity on the Refuge, including guiding and transporting, requires a Special Use Permit. Contact the Refuge office for information. 



Private Land

There are parcels of private land within the boundaries of the refuge, and not all owners have marked their land. Most cabin sites are private property. Please respect all private property and get the landowner’s permission before entering.
 

 

Mosquitoes, Giardia, and Bears, oh my!

   

mosquito swarmIn the warm months, mosquitoes and other biting insects are part of the abundant wildlife of the refuge.  Therefore, being adequately prepared is an important element of planning your trip.  Head nets, bug jackets, DEET-based bug repellent and tents with screens are essential.

Water purification is another consideration.  Water may not be safe to drink without purification due to the presence of the parasite Giardia lamblia in local lakes and rivers.  Be sure to include an appropriate purification device as part of your gear.  If you plan to bring a filter, keep in mind that the Innoko and Yukon rivers are notoriously silty, so include a means of cleaning your filter or bring a bucket to allow the sediment to settle out of water prior to filtration.

Bears are one of the many reasons to visit the Innoko Refuge.  Black and, lessBlack bear on riverbank commonly, brown (grizzly) bears can be seen traversing the landscape in the green months of summer, searching for food and mates.  Therefore, it is important to practice good bear safety techniques, a few of which are outlined below.  Many visitors opt to carry firearms, but bear spray and other non-lethal deterrents can be just as effective if used properly.

The wilds of Alaska are not a place to come unprepared.  Good planning could mean the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a backcountry rescue (or worse).  Here are some helpful safety tips, but always be sure to do your own research prior to visiting this beautiful and remote corner of America.

Backcountry Safety Tips

  • Weather can change quickly so be prepared for rain and cold temperatures.  Adequate rain gear and warm clothing are essential. Hypothermia is always a possibility with wet conditions and cool temperatures, even in the height of summer. 
  • Cold water kills! Use extreme caution and common sense when near rivers, lakes and coastal areas. The water is often murky and swift, and dangerous conditions may not be apparent. Wear a PFD and stay alert for hazards in the water or on the bank.
  • Boil, filter or treat all water before drinking. Giardiasis, a water-borne parasite, is common in Alaska. 
  • Biting insects are common. Come prepared with repellent, head nets and a screened tent. Medication should be carried if you are sensitive to bug bites.
  • Always leave your itinerary with family/friends and notify them when you return.
  • Refuge lands are remote and may be inaccessible during inclement weather. Help could be hours or days away should something go wrong. 
  • Carry emergency water, food, clothing, map, compass, first aid kit and signaling devices.

 

Be Wildlife SafeBlack bear heading away

  • Precautions should be taken to avoid unwanted encounters with bears (both black and grizzly bears) and moose, particularly when they have offspring. 
  • Avoid using well-worn wildlife trails. 
  • Make lots of noise when hiking, especially on windy days, in dense vegetation, and along noisy streams. 
  • Keep campsites very clean and cook/store all food away from camp. 
  • Keep tents, sleeping bags and all personal gear free of food odors. Never bring food in your tent. 
  • It’s important to store food so that it is not obtainable for bears and other animals. “Food” includes garbage, canned items and toiletries. 
  • The use of bear-resistant storage containers is strongly recommended. 
  • Do not bury garbage or debris because the enticing odors teach bears to associate food with humans; a very dangerous situation. 

Keep your wild lands looking wild...Leave No Trace

Take pride in your public wildlands. By using responsible backcountry techniques there should be little or no sign of your visit when you are ready to leave.

Plan Ahead and Be Prepared
Learn as much as possible about the area you are planning to visit. This will determine the appropriate food, clothing, equipment and transportation needed for the trip. Pack lightweight non-odorous foods. Dress in layers and bring small reliable camp stoves and wind-proof tents. Clothing and equipment should be able to withstand rigorous use in prolonged wet and windy conditions. Prepare for bad weather and pack extra food and clothing in case your transportation home is delayed.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Travel in smaller groups and visit less popular areas to minimize contact with others and to enhance wildlife viewing opportunities. Confine your travel and camping areas to surfaces that are resistant to impact. In popular or high-use areas, concentrate your use. This will help preserve the natural condition of the surroundings. In remote and low-use areas, spread out your use. Choose a camping site that is naturally durable, such as sand or gravel.

Pack It In, Pack It Out
Trash has no place in the backcountry. Pack out all of your garbage including cigarette butts, ammunition casings and all non-burnable trash. Properly dispose of what you can’t pack out. Avoid contaminating water sources by camping, washing and using the toilet at least 200 feet from all water bodies. Bury human waste at least six inches deep and well away from camp. Use toilet paper sparingly and burn it or pack it out.

Minimize the Use and Impact of Fires
Use lightweight camp stoves when possible. If a fire is needed, keep it small, use a fire pan, and burn only dead and downed wood. Put out campfires completely and pack out all unburned trash.

Leave What You Find
People come to wild lands to enjoy them in their natural state. Leave plants, rocks and archaeological/cultural evidence as you find them. Archaeological artifacts are protected by law; do not disturb or remove them. 

Page Photo Credits — Campsite: by Kevin Oimoen/USFWS, Boats at Grayling: USFWS/Seth Martin, black bear: USFWS/John Meisenheimer
Last Updated: Jun 21, 2013
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