About the Refuge

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(Adam Grimm/USFWS)


The Yukon Flats Refuge is the nation’s third largest wildlife refuge, encompassing approximately 11.1 million acres of land (8.63 million acres in federal ownership) in eastern central Alaska. Extending 220 miles east-west along the Arctic Circle, the refuge lies between the snowy Brooks Mountain Range to the north and the limestone peaks of the White Mountains to the south. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline corridor runs along the refuge’s western boundary while the eastern boundary extends to within 30 miles of the Canadian border. The Yukon River flows through refuge lands, sculpting the vast floodplain of lakes, ponds, and streams that dominate the landscape.


Seven villages can be found within or adjacent to the boundaries of the refuge where village residents participate in subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, berry picking and wood gathering. Most of these communities are only accessible by boat or airplane in the summer months and snowmobile or dogsled during winter. About 2.5 million acres of land within the refuge boundaries are under Village or Regional Corporation ownership. 


Tens of thousands of lakes and ponds spot the Yukon Flats Refuge, mostly concentrated in the floodplains along the Yukon River and some of its tributaries. The surrounding uplands, where there are fewer lakes, serve as important drainage systems from the bordering mountains, hills, and highlands. 


The abundance of water in lakes, ponds, and streams provides important habitat for waterfowl from all four North American flyways. Though the refuge also supports a varied population of mammals, fish, and birds which are important in maintaining natural diversity and traditional subsistence activities for local residents, its waterfowl nesting and rearing habitat are of national significance. The refuge hosts as many as two million ducks annually and supports the highest breeding densities in Alaska.