Challenges


Extent, Isolation, WeatherPuffins flying overhead – the roar of fur seals or sea lions – the sight of a sea otter pup will reward you if you visit, but challenges abound to reach all but a fraction of the refuge’s 2,500 islands, spires, rocks, and coastal cliffs.

Longest Refuge in Nation 
Lands in the Alaska Maritime Refuge stretch from rainforest islands in Southeast Alaska, west out the Aleutian Chain to Attu Island, and north above the Arctic Circle. Or – seen superimposed over the middle of the North American Continent – they would stretch from Georgia to California to the Canadian border. 

 Few Human Neighbors 
Some of the largest gatherings of seabirds and marine mammals are in places without any human neighbors. One of the islands far out in the Bering Sea is the most remote spot in all of Alaska.This means that access is challenging. There are no harbors, roads, runways, or lodging on most of the refuge.

Fog, Clouds, Wind, and Rain  
Wet and cool weather is so typical on many refuge islands that a sunny day is cause for celebration. Ocean waters in unprotected areas can be rough from frequent storms. Flights – if available – can be cancelled due to weather, sometimes for days. Check our tips for staying warm and dry.

The Most Accessible Areas 
Luckily, the refuge has at least seven regional wildlife viewing hot spots that are accessible with varying degrees of effort.

World War II swept over the Maritime Refuge leaving behind unexploded and still dangerous ordnance, contaminants and hazardous objects such as sharp anti-personnel Rommel stakes hidden in the grass. Attu, Kiska, Little Kiska, Adak and many other islands harbor war dangers. On Kiska and Little Kiska islands alone, allied planes dropped 3 million pounds of bombs during WWII. Stick to the old road beds on these islands and take extreme care if you venture off into the high grass. Do not touch or pick up any item that might be old ammunition, bombs, grenades or other explosive devices. Precautions for Kiska Island which also apply to other islands here. Three large underground nuclear bomb tests in the 1960's and 1970's forever changed Amchitka Island. It is now closed to all public access. Clean-up work is planned for over 35 sites on the refuge from now through 2020. Public access to islands may be limited or difficult while clean-up projects are occurring. Contact the refuge to learn more about war dangers and clean-up projects.