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The Interior: Fairbanks & the Yukon Valley


Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

Location/Size: Bounded on the east by the Canadian border; occupies a wedge of land between the Alaska Highway and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the upper Tanana Valley. 730,000 acres.

Main Activities: Hunting, trapping, fishing, canoeing, photography.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Northway and Northway Village (Nabesna Village)/vehicle access via Alaska Highway (AK 2) and Northway Road. Refuge access: north boundary road access via Alaska Highway, including short trails near High Cache and at Deadman Lake; limited road access via Northway Road; winter road access from Northway along Nabesna River; Chisana and Nabesna River access via drop-offs.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Information exhibits along Alaska Highway. Designated campgrounds along Alaska Highway at Deadman Lake and Yarger Lake. Roadhouses and lodging options along Alaska Highway and in Northway Village.

Headquarters and Information: Refuge Manager, P.O. Box 779, Tok, AK 99780, 883-5312, fax 883-5747, http://tetlin.fws.gov, tetlin@fws.gov (type "Attention Refuge Manager" on subject line); Visitor Center, Mile 1,229 Alaska Highway (near Canadian border).

Those driving into Alaska from the Yukon via the Alaska Highway get one of the state’s more inspiring roadside views when they look across the vast lowlands of Tetlin to the massive Wrangell Mountains. The view exists because the highway avoids the wet lowlands and hugs the hills that bound the valley of the Tanana and its feeders (Chisana and Nabesna) to the north. It begins to sink in that you have reached Alaska when you realize you could park the car and walk 200 miles to the sea without ever crossing a road, reaching a town, or seeing another living soul. Stop at the visitor center (Alaska Highway, Mile 1,229) for information and great views.

The Tetlin basin is largely sprawling spruce forest, interspersed with braided glacial rivers, willow-choked swamps, and lake-peppered flats. Nearly 150 species of birds nest here, while visiting sandhill cranes pass through in great numbers in the spring and fall. Bald eagles, arctic and common loons, osprey, trumpeter swans, and ptarmigan are commonly observed. Moose, black and grizzly bear, wolf, coyote, and red fox are among the mammalian residents.

Various points along the highway can be used for canoe put-ins to access the lower Chisina, upper Tanana River, and the maze of mosquito-swarmed lakes in between. The Nabesna River and Chisana River offer possible long-distance routes for personal watercraft. The small settlement at the end of the Nabesna Road in Wrangell–St. Elias National Preserve is 5 miles from the banks of the upper Nabesna River. Consult the refuge manager and area outfitters for trip ideas.