Wilderness Area

Wilderness Area overlook

Did you know Selawik Refuge includes a Wilderness Area (with a capital “W”)? Located in the Waring Mountains along the northern portion of the refuge, the Selawik Wilderness Area offers wonderful views from the ridgeline of the Kobuk and Selawik river valleys.

These mountains provide some of the best summer hiking terrain on or near the refuge.  The spectacular Kobuk Sand Dunes stretch across the land north of the Wilderness Area, easily visible to ridgeline hikers. In fall, the vivid changing colors of the birch and low shrubs contrast with the dark green spruce forests to enhance the beauty of the area.

“Wilderness Areas” are undeveloped places where natural forces still dominate and opportunities for solitude can be found. In most of the U.S., Wilderness Areas (set aside by Congress) serve as quiet roadless havens where mechanical vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed. In Alaska, much of the state is roadless and undeveloped, and Wilderness Areas afford an extra level of protection to keep them that way. Unlike the lower 48, traditional means of access, including snowmachines and airplanes, can be used in some of Alaska's Wilderness Areas.  The Wilderness Act of 1964 is a national law that outlines how Wilderness Areas are established and preserved. Read more at www.wilderness.net>> 

Wild 50
2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Celebrations are planned in Alaska and throughout the country. Check out Alaska Wild 50 on Facebook or the national 50th Anniversary website for more information.

The Selawik Wilderness encompasses 240,000 acres in the Waring Mountains, including vegetated sand dune fields that have persisted since the Pleistocene Era. In contrast to the low, broad Selawik Valley, the Waring Mountains rise gradually from rolling foothills of alpine tundra to a bare spine of low ridges that arc across the northern boundary of the refuge. 

The grinding action of ancient glaciers created sand, which was carried by wind and water to produce the scattered sand dunes still visible on the refuge.  These dunes are the remnant of a much larger system, which at one time stretched as far as the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes in the Kobuk Valley National Park, 24 miles to the north. 

The Selawik Wilderness Area has no trails or public facilities. Summer access is difficult due to the area’s remoteness and rough topography.
Wilderness Area hikers 350wThe refuge's Wilderness adjoins the 190,000-acre Kobuk Valley Wilderness in the Kobuk Valley National Park.  Hiking in from the Kobuk Sand Dunes is one way to access the Selawik Wilderness Area.  

Photo: Hikers take a break overlooking the Kobuk Valley on their way to the Selawik Wilderness Area.

Map (below): The Selawik Wilderness Area, in the northern portion of the refuge, is shown in a darker shade of green.


Selawik Refuge map brochure version