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Feeding the Flyways

Ducks banded in the Yukon Flats have been recovered in all four North American flyways

See where banded ducks have been recovered

Items of Note

Ruddy Duck Sightings

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Ruddy Duck are being observed more frequently on the refuge. The first brood was observed in 2017 at Canvasback Lake wetland complex and the second in 2018 at Shack Lake complex. These sightings are novel because they expand the breeding range for the species, representing the northwestern extent. A note describing expansion of Ruddy Duck breeding range in Alaska was published in the September issue of the journal, Western Birds. Available online at:

More Info

Area Villages

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Native Alaskans living within and near the Yukon Flats are primarily Gwich'in Athabascan Indians. Seven villages lie within or adjacent to the boundary of Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Local residents have a long history of harvesting the region's natural resources for subsistence purposes. Athabascans follow patterns of harvest that reflect the seasonal cycle of resources and continue to hunt, fish, trap, pick berries, and cut house logs on the refuge.

Read more about the local culture

Refuge History

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During the late 1950s, a major hydroelectric dam project was proposed for the Yukon River at Rampart Canyon, 200 miles downriver from the refuge. That dam, if constructed, would have flooded the entire Yukon Flats and the villages within it, creating a lake larger than Lake Erie. Environmental organizations, hunters, Alaska Native groups, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took a firm stand against this proposed project. In order to illustrate the importance of the Yukon Flats to national waterfowl populations, biologists conducted extensive waterfowl banding efforts. The results of these efforts showed that birds breeding on the Yukon Flats overwintered throughout the entire United States, supplementing each of the four North American flyways. The final report stated that “Nowhere in the history of water development in North America have the fish and wildlife losses anticipated to result from a single project been so overwhelming.” As a result, official protection of the Yukon Flats by the federal government began in 1978 with the designation of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Monument.

History of the Yukon Flats
Refuge Highlights

About the Refuge


Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a remote 8.63 million acre landscape dominated by a vast wetland complex nestled between the White and Brooks Mountain Ranges in Interior Alaska. Bisected by the Yukon River and dotted with more than 30,000 lakes, ponds, and streams, the Refuge provides essential breeding habitat for millions of waterfowl.

Welcome to the Yukon Flats Refuge

Refuge Highlights

Sister Refuges

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At first glance, an urban refuge in California and a remote refuge in Alaska don’t seem to have much in common. Take a closer look and the connections abound. The striking and regal Canvasback is the largest diving duck in North America. It’s also the primary species that connects Yukon Flats Refuge in Alaska to San Pablo Bay Refuge in California – both physically and through each Refuge’s establishing legislation. In the 1950s and 60s, biologists banded thousands of ducks on what is now the Yukon Flats Refuge. Of these banded ducks, 313 canvasbacks were recovered – and 89 of them came from the San Francisco Bay area. So when refuge staff at Yukon Flats sought to establish a “Sister Refuge” relationship with a Lower 48 Refuge, they followed the canvasbacks to San Pablo Bay Refuge in San Francisco’s North Bay.

Learn more about these two Refuges

About the NWRS

National Wildlife Refuge System


The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.

Learn more about the NWRS