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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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Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge

The 3.5 million-acre Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge lies within the floodplain of the Koyukuk River, in a basin that extends from the Yukon River to the Purcell Mountains and the foothills of the Brooks Range. This region of wetlands is home to fish, waterfowl, beaver and moose, and wooded lowlands where bears, wolves, lynx and marten prowl.

The 750,000-acre Northern Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, commonly known as Kaiyuh Flats, is managed as part of the Koyukuk/Nowitna Refuge Complex. Rich in wetlands, the Northern Innoko is an extremely productive breeding area for migratory waterfowl and fish. The streams and rivers of the refuge complex support three species of salmon, arctic grayling, sheefish, and many other fish species. Northern pike, especially those that winter in the shallow lakes of the Northern Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, sometimes grow to record size.

In the Koyukuk's wetlands, breeding waterfowl feast upon water plants and abundant protein-rich invertebrates. Young birds grow quickly in the short, lush summer, and prepare for the fall migration. As many as 100,000 ducks are hatched and raised on Refuge lands during a single nesting season. Migratory songbirds and raptors also depend on the rich resources of the Koyukuk Refuge for breeding and raising young.

Koyukuk Refuge's Three-Day Slough area, part of the 400,000 acre Koyukuk Wilderness, has some of the most productive moose habitat in Alaska. This region has, at times, supported more than 10 moose per square mile. Recent counts indicate that some areas still contain densities of five moose or more per square mile. As with much of the refuge big game work, these moose counts are cooperative efforts between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Caribou from the migratory Western Arctic Herd, which numbers more than 450,000, often move into the northernmost reaches of the Refuge in winter months in search of lichens that lie beneath the snow. The Koyukuk also supports a resident non-migratory caribou population, the Galena Mountain Herd, which numbers about 300. Wolves, lynx and other furbearers, as well as black and grizzly bears, are found on the Refuge year around.

Getting There . . .
The Koyukuk and Northern Innoko Refuges are part of the vast roadless region that makes up much of northern and western Alaska. Traversing the Koyukuk and Kaiyuh takes two days by motor boat and more than an hour in a small airplane. Commuter aircraft provide regularly scheduled air transportation from Fairbanks and Anchorage to Galena, where the Refuge headquarters is located. Visitors can charter small aircraft for travel to the Refuge from Galena. The Koyukuk River is a major tributary of the Yukon River, and some visitors, mostly moose hunters, use the river to enter the Refuge by boat. The Koyukuk River mouth is approximately 312 miles downriver from the Dalton Highway Bridge on the Yukon River or the Tanana River Bridge at Nenana. Local residents travel extensively on the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers, by boat in the summer and snow machine in the winter.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The 3.5 million acre Koyukuk Refuge encompasses the flood plain of the lower Koyukuk River, a broad basin surrounded by rolling, low mountains. This interior Alaska region is characterized by short, hot summers and long, cold winters. Long hours of sunlight in the summer support lush vegetation and a variety of wildlife species.

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The rich wildlife resources of the Koyukuk Refuge have supported the Koyukon Athabascan people for thousands of years. Still today people from villages within or near the Refuge depend on the moose, fish, furbearers, berries and other resources in their subsistence lifestyle. Valuable resources also provided material for trade, in the early days between Koyukon Indians of the region and Inupiaq Eskimo to the north and west.

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Perhaps staying overnight on the Koyukuk in a remote and isolated setting offers one of the greatest rewards to the visitor. The Refuge is open to camping, but the visitor must be prepared to be completely self-sufficient.

Please choose durable grounds for your campsite, such as gravel bars, and pack out all your trash. When traveling along the rivers please be respectful of the numerous cabins and fish camps that usually mark private inholdings. To obtain the latest information on conditions we suggest that you check in with the Refuge office before you head out to camp.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
The main purpose of the Refuge is to conserve fish, wildlife and habitats in their natural diversity. Fish and wildlife species highlighted by the legislation establishing the Refuge include: waterfowl, moose, caribou, furbearers, and salmon. Other Refuge purposes are to fulfill international treaty obligations, to provide for continued subsistence opportunities, and to insure water quality and quantity.

Refuge programs are aimed at maintaining areas in their natural state, gathering baseline biological data, maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife, and providing information and education to the public. Refuge management is complicated by a matrix of differing land jurisdictions and authorities (federal, state and private), especially near the six villages along or within the Refuge boundaries (Hughes, Huslia, Koyukuk, Nulato, Kaltag and Galena).

The task of monitoring refuge resources extends beyond its borders, and involves many partners, including local village tribal councils, other State and Federal agencies, and research associates in other countries. For example, a decline in the local population of white-fronted geese prompted cooperative studies currently underway in Canada and Mexico, two countries which host these birds and many of the Refuges' other important migratory bird species during parts of their annual life cycles.

Subsistence hunting, gathering and trapping by local residents, mainly Koyukon Athabascan Indians, is the main public use on the refuge complex. Controversies about allocation of fish and game resources (and particularly salmon and moose) among user groups, along with increased commercial guiding and transporting activities for moose hunting, have made dialogue between Refuge staff and the various user groups a priority of the Service. Moose are eagerly sought by locals and visitors alike, and moose management has required increased attention in recent years. In a successful joint effort, multiple user groups and agencies are currently working together to manage moose populations in the Koyukuk Region.

The Refuge strives to maintain the region's natural wildland fire cycle by carefully managing fires near settlements, but allowing nature to take its course in areas where naturally occurring burns pose little hazard to humans or their property.

Special efforts are made to protect the Koyukuk Wilderness, a 400,000 acre congressionally-designated Wilderness Area. The Wilderness includes Three-Day Slough, a popular area for moose hunting, and the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Nogabahara Sand Dunes.