|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m|
Location/Size: Encompasses the deltas of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and coastal wetlands along the Bering Sea. 19.6 million acres (1.9 million acres designated wilderness).
Main Activities: Fishing, river travel, coastal exploration, Nunivak Island visits, wildlife observation.
Gateway Towns/Getting There: Bethel/scheduled air service from Anchorage, river access via Kuskokwim River. River access via Yukon and Kuskokwim; coastal access via charter boat and personal watercraft; interior access via charter air and regular small-plane air service to settlements.
Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Exhibits and information at visitor center in Bethel. Primitive camping, limited services in several settlements throughout refuge.
Larger than Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, and Massachusetts combined, the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge is the largest designated preserve in America. Thousands
of lakes dot this largely treeless, 28,000-square-mile refuge, dominated by the mouths of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Seasonal or year-round residents include more than 750,000 swans and geese, 2 million ducks, and 100 million shore- and waterbirds. Hills to the north and east host grizzly and black bear, moose, caribou, and wolves.
Though vast in scale, there are many substantial native land inclusions. The area has long been the home of Yupik Eskimos, most of whom still depend upon the bounty of the delta for subsistence hunting and fishing. Forty-two villages are within the refuge, several serving as good bases for exploration or as put-in points or destinations for river travel. A 20-mile road connecting Mountain Village and Saint Marys is the refuges longest.
Twenty miles offshore, Nunivak Island is home to an introduced, but now virtually wild herd of musk oxonce practically eliminated from the state. Members of the herd are periodically removed to other locations to reestablish populations across its original territory. Reindeer introduced to the island provide a source of food and income for residents.
Two forks of the Andreafsky River north of St. Marys are designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers and offer river-running options. They flow through a hilly and forested area in the Yukon Delta Wilderness portion of the refuge. Access is difficult. Consult the refuge manager, outfitters, and local pilots when designing a trip.