Floating along the gentle Nowitna River is the most popular way to explore this refuge in Interior Alaska.
Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge encompasses more forested lands than most Alaska refuges. Each spring, the arrival of thousands of migratory songbirds and waterfowl fill the refuge’s 14,000 lakes and ponds with life.
Things to Do
River trips along the Nowitna River are the main method of exploring the refuge, providing access to fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and photography. The lush riverbanks provide an important corridor for wildlife, and floating gives visitors up-close experiences with the surrounding landscape. Anglers can fish for northern pike, sheefish, and Arctic grayling in the Nowitna River and other streams within the refuge. Salmon can be found in the Yukon River and tributaries.
The refuge has also become a draw for outdoor photographers who enjoy opportunities to photograph wildlife against the refuge’s dramatic backdrop. The region is particularly stunning when autumn colors peak in late August or early September, and when northern lights ignite the winter skies.
Nowitna's wetlands are important feeding grounds and breeding habitat for thousands of waterfowl including ducks, geese, swans, and cranes. Raptors, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, northern harriers, and both rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, also call this refuge their summer home. Marten, moose, wolves, lynx, wolverine, black bear, and grizzly bear all inhabit the refuge.
The 2 million acre Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge encompasses the floodplains of the Yukon and Nowitna Rivers. The vast area is made up of a variety of landscapes including meadows, wetlands, forests, tundra, and thousands of lakes. The Nowitna River, a nationally designated Wild and Scenic River, makes up the heart of the refuge. This wide, meandering river starts in the Kuskokwim Mountains and travels 283 miles before merging into the Yukon River.
Located near the Alaska Native villages of Ruby and Tanana, the refuge protects about three-quarters of the 283-mile Nowitna River. Along with 15 other refuges in Alaska, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act established this refuge in 1980.
Facilities and Camping
There are no trails, roads, or visitor facilities in the refuge. Backcountry camping is permitted.
Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge is 150 miles west of Fairbanks. Refuge headquarters are located in Galena, but Ruby and Tanana are the nearest communities. Visitors can access the refuge by chartered air service or river in the summer and by plane or snowmobile in the winter.
For more information, visit the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge website.