Refuge Description

refuge description photo

The National Elk Refuge consists of 24,700 acres of intermountain valley in the Jackson Hole area of northwestern Wyoming.


The National Wildlife Refuge System includes 568 national wildlife refuges from Alaska to the Caribbean and Maine to the south Pacific. There is at least one national wildlife refuge in each state. The Refuge System also includes five marine national monuments and 38 wetland management districts.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects some of the country’s most iconic ecosystems and the fish and wildlife that rely on them: prairies of the heartland, teeming with native pollinators and bison; hardwood forests of the Southeast, a source of regional and cultural pride; desert Southwest landscapes, home to vibrant and rare plant communities that draw new life during the summer monsoon season. The Refuge System also conserves waterways that give life to all of them — critical ecosystems along rivers, streams, wetlands, coasts and marine areas.

The National Elk Refuge is one of those national wildlife refuges. Located in the heart of the 22-million acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the National Elk Refuge provides critical habitat for a number of species, including elk, bison, pronghorn, swans, eagles, and trout.

The Refuge is six miles wide at its widest point and ten miles long from southwest to northeast. The elevation varies from 6,200 feet to 7,200 feet. The Teton Range, visible to the west, rise to 13,775 feet at the summit of Grand Teton. The valley and surrounding mountains show classic examples of glaciation.

The northern half of the Refuge consists of steep, rolling hills. The southern half is glacial washout material, with one resistant formation -- Miller Butte -- rising approximately 500 feet above the valley floor.

Much of the Refuge consists of grassy meadows and marshes on the valley floor. The flood plain forest along the Gros Ventre River contains blue spruce, narrowleaf cottonwood, aspen, and willow as major species. There are extensive areas of big sagebrush and rocky outcroppings. The forested areas of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, and aspen are mostly on the northern slopes of the Gros Ventre hills.