Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

The Yukon River, one of the great rivers of the world, rambles through the heart of this enormous refuge, a wetland basin of more than 40,000 shallow lakes, ponds, and sloughs. The Yukon Flats is internationally celebrated as a cradle for the millions of nesting waterfowl and other migratory birds that converge here each spring. Scaup, pintails, scoters, and wigeons breed here, as do canvasbacks, the “princes of waterfowl.” In September, birds gather on the refuge’s fertile lakes before taking wing to continue their migratory journeys. The productive wetlands nourish moose, bears, furbearers, and fish, as well as the Athabascan people of the Yukon Flats, who have lived in harmony with the wildlife here for thousands of years.

Few experiences are more quintessentially Alaskan than paddling the waters of the Yukon River or one of its tributaries. Experienced boaters may canoe, kayak, or raft on their own; others may participate in commercially guided treks. The refuge surrounds several Athabascan villages including Fort Yukon, which has been selected by NASA as a research base for the study of the aurora borealis. Tourists may take a river boat up the Yukon to visit a Native fish camp. When traveling on the refuge, visitors should remember to treat Native properties and people with courtesy and respect.


Access is primarily by aircraft. There is regular air service from Fairbanks to Native villages; charter and commercial guide services may be obtained in Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Circle, and at the Yukon River crossing on the James Dalton Highway.


USFWS (800) 531-0676