U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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National Wildlife Refuge

This 3.5 million acre Refuge lies within the expansive floodplain of the Koyukuk River in interior Alaska.
101 Front St
P.O. Box 287
Galena, AK   99741
E-mail: koyukuk@fws.gov
Phone Number: 907-656-1231
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Extensive wetlands are a trademark of the Koyukuk Refuge.
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Continued . . .

In the mid 1800's trade expanded as Russians arrived and established trading posts, bringing European goods to trade for furs. Not long after, a new natural resource was discovered on the Koyukuk river that turned the river into a thoroughfare: Gold! In 1898 steamboats filled the river, bringing prospectors to the mining fields in the foothills of the Brooks Range. Most of the gold rush glory faded in a few years, but active mining continues on a few Koyukuk River tributaries north of the Refuge.

Although the mining towns which sprouted up during the brief stampede were located upriver of the refuge, there was certainly an effect on the scattered villages and camps of the lower Koyukuk. Western civilization had arrived, and slowly brought the trappings of "modernization" even to these remote outposts. The seasonal migration of families (winter traplines, spring muskrat hunting, summer fishing) ceased as children remained in villages to attend school.

Life in the Koyukon Region remains an interesting mix of modern and traditional life, and the land with its rich resources is still a vital part of the local culture and lifestyle. The land itself looks much as it must have to prospectors making their way up the Koyukuk a hundred years ago, or to Athabascan Indians headed to spring-camp hundreds of years before that. The Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act. Since that time, refuge staff have worked to ensure that the land, its wildlife and habitats, its free flowing waters and subsistence resources, remain untamed for hundreds of years into the future.

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