Skip Navigation

About the Refuge

Monk seal and albatross

Located on the far northern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, Midway Atoll is located within the country's largest conservation area, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. It is one the oldest atoll formations in the world and thanks to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery efforts today, the Atoll provides nesting habitat for millions of seabirds and a place where humans can remember one of the most significant international naval battles in our human history. 


Midway Atoll is not your typical National Wildlife Refuge. Nowhere in the Refuge System are the lives of wildlife and human residents so intertwined. It is, in many respects, a little city, with all the structures, utilities, and types of equipment that are needed to function in support of the resident human community. At one time, the facilities at Midway supported more than 5,000 people. While the current resident population is approximately 60, much of the original infrastructure remains in place.

Midway is one of the world's most spectacular wildlife experiences. Nearly three million birds call it home for much of each year, including the world's largest population of Laysan albatrosses. Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and spinner dolphins frequent Midway's crystal blue lagoon.

Midway became an "overlay" refuge in 1988, while still under the primary jurisdiction of the Navy. With the closure of Naval Air Facility Midway Island in 1993, there began a transition from bullets to birds, a change in mission from national defense to wildlife conservation.

Midway is one of the most remote coral atolls on earth. Yet, it is much, much more! 

  • the last link in a global telegraph system, inaugurated by a message from President Teddy Roosevelt on the Fourth of July, 1903
  • a landing site for Pan Am Clippers enroute across the Pacific Ocean in the late 1930s
  • the focus of a 1942 battle that changed the tide of war in the Pacific
  • from July 1942 to the end of hostilities, Midway served as a submarine base that aided in bringing the war to a close
  • naval air facility that played a pivotal role in support of the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War

Learn more

Page Photo Credits — © Dan Clark
Last Updated: Sep 11, 2013
Return to main navigation