Becharof National Wildlife Refuge

A red-faced cormorant colony on the face of a cliff in Becharof Wilderness
Red-faced cormorants

Becharof National Wildlife Refuge started out as Becharof National Monument. The presidential proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter on December 1, 1978 and the property was established on December 2, 1990 by the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service took charge of the property in 1993.

The 1.2 million acres of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge lie at the eastern end of the Alaska Peninsula. This whole area of Alaska was heavily affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 11009. Since that time, biologists have been regularly conducting extensive surveys in the area to see just how well the various native marine and avian species are recovering.

The centerpiece of Becharof NWR is Becharof Lake, 35 miles long, 15 miles wide, up to 600 feet deep and covering some 300,000 acres. Becharof Lake is the largest lake in the National Wildlife Refuge system, the second largest lake in Alaska. The lake is a massive producer of sockeye salmon, providing Bristol Bay with an estimated 6 million adult salmon per year. Because of all that salmon, this is also where you'll find the largest concentration of brown bears in Alaska. You'll also find moose, fox, wolverine, beaver, river otter and members of the Northern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd here.

To the southwest of Becharof is the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge. To the northeast is Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Dry Bay in Becharof Wilderness
Dry Bay, Becharof Wilderness
Black brant flying at Becharof National Wildlife Refuge

The Becharof Wilderness is a 500,000-acre area in the northeast section of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, enclosing some of the volcanic structures and many of the bird cliffs rising above the ocean waves of Shelikof Strait and above Becharof Lake.

This is an area of high mountains rising abruptly from the ocean's edge with deep fjords, broad valleys, glacial lakes and lots of tundra. Along the ocean's shore you'll find colonies of sea lion, harbor seal and sea otter with whales hanging out offshore.

This undisturbed habitat is called home by thousands of ducks, swans and geese. There are significant populations of American green-winged teal, common goldeneye, common merganser, northern pintail, northern shoveler, American and Eurasian wigeon, Canada goose, tundra swan, greater scaup, greater white-fronted goose, mallard, black scooter, long-tailed duck and red-breasted merganser. Winter finds red-breasted merganser, willow ptarmigan, gray jay, common goldeneye, bald eagle, glaucous-winged gull, common raven, black-billed magpie, northern shrike, chickadee and common redpoll in the area.

Puale Bird Cliffs, Becharof Wilderness
Puale Bird Cliffs, Becharof Wilderness
Salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn, Becharof National Wildlife Refuge
Salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn
The Mt. Peulik Volcano, Becharof National Wildlife Refuge
Ugashik-Peulik Volcano rising to the south of Becharof Lake
Ugashik Caldera, next to the Peulik volcano, Becharof National Wildlife Refuge
Ugashik Caldera, adjacent to Peulik volcano
Map of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge