The Innoko Refuge typifies wilderness. With no inhabited human settlements, no roads, and a lack of easy access to the Refuge, human visitors are few and far between. However, an abundance of summer migrant and year-round resident wildlife calls the Innoko Refuge home. Each spring and summer, thousands of waterfowl come to nest and molt on the plentiful wetland lakes, creeks, and rivers that make the Innoko Refuge one of the largest staging areas for migrating waterfowl in Alaska. Moose, bear, fish, waterfowl, berries, as well as other plants and animals provide valuable subsistence resources for communities along the Yukon River, which forms the western border of the Refuge. Recreational opportunities abound and difficult access ensures a chance to experience unparalleled solitude.
The Innoko National Wildlife Refuge was one of the refuges established in Alaska by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which was passed on December 2, 1980. ANILCA established the refuge in two units totaling 4.6 million acres. The Northern Unit (751,000 acres) of the Refuge, also called Kaiyah Flats, is administered by the Koyukuk/Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Galena. The Southern Unit (3.85 million acres) is administered by the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in McGrath.
The primary purposes for which the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge was established, and shall be managed:
1. to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, waterfowl, peregrine falcons, other migratory birds, black bear, moose, furbearers, and other mammals and salmon;
2. to fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats;
3. to provide the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents;
4. to ensure water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.