Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge


(907) 656-1708

Map Directions

Things To Do



The heart of Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge is a lowland basin of forests and wetlands that forms the floodplain of the meandering Nowitna River. The refuge's climate is typically marked by light precipitation, mild winds, long, hard winters and short, relatively warm, summers. The hills that circle the refuge lowlands are capped by alpine tundra. It takes a week in a canoe, or more than an hour in a small plane, to traverse the refuge's 2.1 million acres of pristine wildlife habitat. Approximately 223 miles of the Nowitna River's 283-mile length flow within the boundaries of the refuge. Fish species inhabiting the river and its related lakes and streams include sheefish, burbot, whitefish, sucker, king and chum salmon, northern pike and arctic grayling. The slow, meandering lower reaches of the Nowitna wander through one of Alaska's many productive waterfowl nurseries. The grassy margins of the river, surrounding lakes, and waterways provide breeding habitat for trumpeter swans, white fronted geese, canvasback ducks, cranes, and many other migratory species. More than 120 bird species have been sighted on the refuge during summer months, but only a few dozen hardy species remain through the long, cold winters. Mature white spruce in the forested lowlands provides cover and den sites for marten, and trapping these and other furbearers remains important to the economy of people in the region. In fact, refuge lands have been used for centuries by Koyukon Athabascans for hunting, fishing, trapping and other subsistence activities. Moose, wolves, lynx, wolverines and both black and grizzly bears might be encountered anywhere on the refuge.

Map of Nowitna NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 64.786998, -154.778137



  • Boating

    Boating is popular in the warmer months. The rivers freeze over in winter, and boating is not recommended.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is allowed with no fees. Follow Alaska and federal regulations.

  • Hunting

    Hunting is allowed with no fees. Follow Alaska and federal regulations.


Summer temperatures average 70°F but can reach into the mid 90°s F. In winter the average is -5°F with extreme lows dropping to -80°F. You will miss the worst of the mosquitoes by visiting in late May or early June, but bring anti-mosquito defenses throughout the summer. July usually offers the best weather, with warm temperatures and little rain. The first hints of fall come in late August when the leaves turn golden. Soon northern lights begin to appear, dancing across the night skies. Freeze-up generally occurs by mid-October, marking the start of the long winter.



The Nowitna Refuge lies in the vast roadless region of northern and western Alaska so no road access is available.


Commuter aircraft provide regularly scheduled air transportation from Fairbanks and Anchorage to Galena, where the refuge headquarters is located. The two villages nearest the refuge, Ruby and Tanana, have less frequent air service, but there are local guides available. Visitors may charter small aircraft for transport to the refuge from Galena or McGrath.

Public Transportation

Most visitors travel to the Nowitna Refuge by boat, coming 240 miles down the Yukon River from the Dalton Highway Bridge or 280 miles down the Tanana River from Nenana. Local residents travel extensively up and down the Yukon River by boat in summer and snow machine in the winter.

Phone Numbers


(907) 656-1708