About the Refuge

Refuge terrain

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including salmon, marine birds and mammals, migratory birds, and large mammals; to fulfill international treaty obligations; to provide for continued subsistence use; and to ensure necessary water quality and quantity.



Dominated by the Ahklun Mountains in the north and the cold waters of Bristol Bay to the south, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge confronts the traveler with a kaleidoscope of landscapes. The natural forces that have shaped this land range from the violent and powerful to the geologically patient. Earthquakes and volcanoes filled the former role, and their marks can still be found, but it was the gradual advance and retreat of glacial ice that carved many of the physical features of this refuge. What a wealth of biological diversity these carved and crumpled lands support.  

Refuge Features

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge includes 4.7 million acres of land in southwest Alaska between Kuskokwim Bay and Bristol Bay. The eastern boundary of Togiak Refuge is about 350 air miles southwest of Anchorage. The Togiak Refuge is bordered on the north by Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, and on the east by Wood-Tikchik State Park. Togiak Refuge is roadless; primary access is via air or water. 

Togiak Refuge features a variety of landscapes, including mountain crags, fast-flowing rivers, deep lakes, tundra, marshy lowlands, ponds, estuaries, coastal lagoons, and sea cliffs. The broad glacial valleys of the Ahklun Mountain range cut the tundra uplands, opening into coastal plains. The Ahklun Mountains spread across 80 percent of Togiak Refuge.

Refuge Purposes

The Alaska National Interest Land Claims Act (ANILCA) sets forth the following major purposes for which the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was established and shall be managed: 

  1. to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitat;  
  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.   


A variety of events, including tectonic activity, volcanic activity, sedimentary processes, glacial activity, and erosion, have shaped the physical features of Togiak Refuge.
Many geological features of the Togiak Refuge result from ice sheets that once covered much of the area. The last two major ice advances occurred about 35,000 and 15,000 years ago. The most spectacular features of ice erosion are along the eastern boundary of the Togiak Refuge, where alpine areas include hanging valleys, cirques, and glacial moraines. Elongated lakes, some more than 900 feet deep, lie in glacier-scoured bedrock. Volcanic eruptions underneath glacial ice formed a rare and unique flat topped volcano, or tuya, about 15 miles northeast of the present day village of Twin Hills.


Archaeological evidence indicates that the Cape Newenham/Togiak region of southwestern Alaska has been continuously occupied for at least 2,000 years. One site at Security Cove shows evidence of possible human occupancy dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years. The history of people in southwest Alaska is discussed on our Area History page.  

Prior to 1969, the area that was to become Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In 1969, some of these lands were set aside as the Cape Newenham National Wildlife Refuge. In 1980, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the 265,000 acre Cape Newenham Refuge was expanded and renamed, becoming the 4.7 million acre Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The northern 2.3 million acres of the refuge are designated as a Wilderness Area. Greater detail can be found on our Refuge Establishment page.  There is a timeline of the development of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the Togiak Refuge on our Refuge Establishment Timeline page.