Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

View of Bird Rock at Cape Newenham on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
Bird Rock on Cape Newenham

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is in southwestern Alaska, north of the Alaska Peninsula and against the southern boundary of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Rising to the north of Bristol Bay and stretching across the Ahklun Mountains to the north, Togiak NWR is a land shaped by earthquakes, volcanoes and glacial ice. At 4,102,537 acres, Togiak is the fourth largest National Wildlife Refuge in the United States.

The refuge is home to seventeen marine mammal species (sea otters, seals, sea lions, walruses, whales) and 31 terrestrial mammal species (black bear, grizzly bear, brown bear, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, gray wolf, red fox, lynx, beaver, wolverine, marmot, porcupine, river otter, mink, muskrat...) There have also been 201 species of birds recorded on Togiak NWR.

While there are folks who live on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, most visitors arrive via air charter services that fly out of either Dillingham or Bethel, both of which get commercial air service from Anchorage. You might think that makes it hard to get to Togiak but the refuge regularly records some 20,000 visitor days per year.

The northern 2.3 million acres of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge are designated wilderness: the Togiak Wilderness Area. Togiak Wilderness Area is the second largest designated wilderness in the care of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

A mountain glacier in Togiak Wilderness
A mountain glacier in the Togiak Wilderness

Togiak Wilderness is a beautiful area of rugged, steep-sided mountains, clear mountain lakes and pristine rivers. The opportunities here for solitude and primitive recreation are outstanding. The wilderness is crossed by the Goodnews, Togiak and Kanektok Rivers. You'll find some of the best salmon, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and rainbow trout fishing on Earth here. The rivers flow free and provide superb scenic, riparian and recreational value. The headwaters of these three rivers are all in the mountains of the Togiak Wilderness Area and that wilderness designation ensures that they will remain unspoiled and undeveloped.

One thing to look out for here (and in many other areas of Alaska's National Wildlife Refuges) is the presence of private land. It's not such a big problem in the Togiak Wilderness but there are a couple areas where there are conflicting interests and claims. The map at the bottom of this page indicates land status, because some sections of Togiak NWR are owned by Native corporations, public corporations and private individuals. That map also indicates the location of the Togiak Wilderness Area.

A glacial lake in the mountains of Togiak Wilderness
A glacial lake in the Ahklun Mountains of Togiak Wilderness
Walrus on the beach at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
Walrus on the beach, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
The Kemuk River on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
The Kemuk River
A typical meandering river on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
A meandering river at Togiak NWR
Togiak NWR Land Status map
Land status map, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, click on the map for a larger version