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Aleutians & Bering Sea Isles
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Aleutians & Bering Sea Isles


Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

False Pass


Unalaska / Dutch Harbor


Other Aleutian Islands

Pribilof Islands

Saint Lawrence Island

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Location/Size: Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea Islands, and other coastal islands. 2.64 million acres.

Main Activities: Birding, wilderness exploration, backpacking, sea kayaking, flightseeing, ferry cruising.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Several Aleutian Islands towns/scheduled ferry service to False Pass, Akutan, and Unalaska; scheduled air service to Unalaska; regular small-plane air service to Saint Paul, Akutan, Nikolski, False Pass, and other points; charter air and floatplane. Park access: coastal access via sea kayak in sheltered coastal areas and island groups; hiking access via gateway towns and drop-offs; very limited road access on Unalaska, Umnak, Kiska, Attu, Adak, Amchitka, and others (access to certain islands and roads requires military permission).

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: No facilities. Primitive camping only.

Headquarters and Information: Refuge Manager, 2355 Kachemak Bay Drive, Suite 101, Homer, AK 99603-8021, 235-6546, www.r7.fws.gov/nwr/akmnwr/akmnwr.html, r7aiuwr@fws.gov (type "Attention Refuge Manager" on subject line); Aleutian Islands Unit, P.O. Box 5251, Adak, AK 99546, 592-2406.

Virtually all of the Aleutian Island chain west of Unimak Island is encompassed by the Aleutian Unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Large inclusions of native and village corporation lands are found near settlements, while the military lands on Attu, Adak, and Shemya require permission to visit.

Many islands are further protected in the refuge’s designated Aleutian Islands Wilderness. Any who visit wilderness areas will find steep, treeless ridges and slopes, wave-battered cliffs, thousands of seabirds, colonies of marine mammals, volcanoes, solitude, water, and wind.

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is literally for the birds; over 10 million migratory and resident birds nest within its bounds. Kiska hosts the world’s largest colony of crested and least auklets. Chagulak is the choice of almost a million northern fulmars. Alaska’s largest colony of tufted puffins—about 100,000 —nest on the small island of Kaligagan. Visitor and "accidental" Asian species are commonly seen on some islands, including whooper swans, tufted ducks, Siberian rubythroats, wood sandpipers, far eastern curlews, and common black-headed gulls.

Common land birds include the bald eagle, raven, rock ptarmigan, peregrine falcon, snow bunting, song sparrow, Lapland longspur, winter wren, and rosy finch. Numerous other species visit the islands at various times of year.

Though the Aleutians and Bering Sea Islands are the best known units, the refuge encompasses many other islands, isolated coastal locations, and stretches of open ocean from the Chukchi Sea to the far Southeast. A visitor center for the Aleutian Unit of the refuge is found on Adak Island (check to see if it’s still open).

A better source for most folks is the refuge manager’s office in Homer, or one of the four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers (see details above and appendix). Just about anywhere it makes sense to be protecting ocean-going birds and marine mammals, there’s probably a unit of the refuge or a similar state preserve.

If you’re considering sea-kayak or backpack explorations in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, discuss options with outfitters, pilots, and refuge officials. A number of critical habitat areas are closed to humans at key times or permanently. No visit should be taken lightly; be prepared for storms, chill, rain, and wind. Traveling the open sea in a large boat or ferry may challenge the stomach, but excursions in smaller craft can be positively dangerous.