The Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, traditional homelands of the Koyukon Athabascan people, was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980. ANILCA established the refuge in two units totaling 4.6 million acres. The northern unit of the Refuge (also called Kaiyah Flats) is 751,000 acres; the larger southern unit is comprises 3.85 million acres.
One of the primary reasons the refuge was created was to protect one of the largest waterfowl habitat areas in interior Alaska. Innoko refuge provides a vast area of wetlands that are crucial for waterfowl nesting, resting, staging, and molting. Other special values that the refuge is noted for include habitat for avian raptor populations, as well as the natural water and fire regime that creates excellent habitat for moose. Moose hunting is very popular and subsistence fish and hunting camps dot the landscape. Marshy landscapes, meandering rivers and wet tundra abound creating ample habitats for fish and wildlife including moose, salmon, northern pike, whitefish, sheefish, furbearers and an array of shorebirds and waterfowls species.
The Innoko Wilderness Area, also designated in 1980, encompasses 1.24 million acres located south and east of the Innoko River. This congressionally-mandated area includes much of the lower Iditarod River and many lakes and ponds. This area is a true wilderness in every sense of the word. It is common to go for days without seeing or hearing signs of another human.
The primary purposes for which the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge was established, and shall be managed, include conser fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, waterfowl, peregrine falcons, other migratory birds, black bear, moose, furbearers, and other mammals and salmon; fulfilling the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats; providing the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents; and ensuring water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.