Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Nature remains essentially undisturbed in this vast, unbroken refuge, the largest national wildlife refuge in the nation. The estimated 90,000 to 100,000 member Porcupine caribou herd calves on the coastal plan from May to mid-June. Bears lumber through the alpine meadows, forests, and river bottoms, searching for ground squirrels, carrion, roots, and berries. Visitors to the remote area may see wolves out hunting, Dall sheep feeding on the mountainsides, and muskoxen foraging along river valleys. Snowy owls, jaegers, tundra swans, snow geese, eiders, Lapland longspurs, and many other bird species, nearly 170 in all from several continents, use the refuge.
River rafting and/or backpacking trips provide excellent opportunities to view wildlife. The refuge offers no designated campsites or marked trails; only highly-skilled wilderness travelers should venture out without a guide. The landscape is fragile, weather can be unpredictable, and mosquitoes can be intolerable.
The Dalton Highway comes close to a small portion of the refuge’s western boundary, but there are no roads to or in the main part of the refuge. Most visitors charter aircraft from Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Arctic Village, Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay), or Kaktovik. Planes land on gravel bars, lakes, and tundra sites. Changeable weather frequently delays flights, so take extra food and supplies. Visitors passing through villages should be sensitive to local customs.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or (907) 456-0250