Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge


(907) 456-0329

Map Directions

Things To Do



Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge is, at 1.637 million-acres, about the size of the state of Delaware. It sits atop the Arctic Circle, with approximately one-third of the refuge above that meridian and two-thirds below. This bowl of gently rolling terrain, commonly referred to as Kanuti Flats, consists primarily of boreal forest, or taiga, studded with innumerable lakes, ponds and marshes. The region's typically short, hot summers give rise to numerous thunderstorms and lightning strikes. This results in a continuous cycle of burn and recovery that creates diverse habitats with different plant species, and levels of maturity within each species, characterizing the older and younger burns. The resulting mosaic of habitat types supports a variety of wildlife. The refuge's migratory fish, chinook, chum and coho salmon, as well as sheefish, are creatures of extremes. Its sheefish make the longest spawning journey of any of their species' population on record, while Kanuti's salmon species travel more than 1000 miles up the Yukon before entering the Koyukuk River system to spawn. Refuge waters support twelve other fish species, including arctic grayling and northern pike. Protecting breeding habitat for migratory birds is central to the mission of Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, and nearly 160 species of birds spend part or all of the year on refuge lands. With the loss of wetlands in regions outside of Alaska, the importance of Kanuti as a nesting area for all birds is likely to increase. The refuge's boreal forest is home to 37 species of mammals, including brown and black bears, several wolf packs, moose, wolverine, beavers, muskrats, marten and mink. Caribou from the Western Arctic and Ray Mountain herds occasionally winter on Kanuti, as well.

Map of Kanuti NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 66.443107, -151.759644



  • Boating

    Traveling the refuge by river can be an enjoyable way to experience the refuge. Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge can be accessed by several rivers intersecting the Dalton Highway or by plane. River trips should be preceded by a stop or a call to the refuge office in Fairbanks, because details on water levels and possible use restrictions or limitations are important information for anyone planning a river trip. If traveling the Kanuti River from the Dalton Highway, be aware that an extensive bolder field exists between the road and the refuge boundary. Only experienced paddlers should travel this area; others should portage around the length of it. Sections of the upper Kanuti River are classified as Class Three waters, although the river does slow down and start winding considerably when it reaches Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge's eastern boundary.

  • Fishing

    Fishery resources of the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge are varied and abundant. King, chum, and silver salmon return to refuge waters annually to spawn. Clearwater-loving arctic grayling are often seen as they rise to the water's surface to capture insects. Sheefish, whitefish, burbot, and northern pike thrive in the river and lake systems within the refuge. The Federal government has listed two species known to occur on the refuge, chinook and coho salmon, as "species of special concern" because of declining populations.

  • Hunting

    Moose hunting opportunities on Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge are limited for non-local residents due to the closure of the Kanuti Controlled Use Area, but portions of the refuge are open and accessible from the road. Shallow water and large boulders reduce use of some creeks and rivers, but people willing to float down rivers in non-motorized boats can be picked up by chartered plane or motorboats at certain locations.


Kanuti Refuge can be a land of extremes. Temperatures can fluctuate 50 degrees in any given day. It can snow any time of the year and the wind can pick up when you least expect it.



Most visitors to the refuge come through the community of Bettles, which lies 150 air miles northwest of Fairbanks.


From Bettles, air charters are available for drop-offs at lakes, rivers and gravel bars. Visitors can then access the refuge on foot or by boat. Keep in mind, however, that this is a very wet area with no developed foot trails, and that many of the refuge's upland areas are not ideal for hiking.

Public Transportation

In winter, the refuge can be reached from the Dalton Highway using non-motorized transportation such as skis or dog teams. Snow machine access is also authorized for traditional activities; contact the refuge office for more information.

Phone Numbers


(907) 456-0329