Discover the Largest National Wildlife Refuge in the United States

Northeastern Alaska is home to the largest national wildlife refuge, which covers an area of more than 19,286,000 acres. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is roughly the size of the state of South Carolina, and it is dispersed throughout a variety of landscapes and areas. It is also the largest and most untamed publicly owned area in the nation.

Regarding the ANWR

The vast region, often referred to as the Arctic Refuge, was created in 1960 and is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The region was expanded by 18 million acres and given a new name by 1980. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge now occupies an area of more than 19.6 acres.

The Beaufort Sea to the north, the Brooks Mountain Range to the south, the Alaska-Canada boundary to the east, and the Canning River to the west define the boundaries of the ANWR.

Villages and Population

Kaktovik and Arctic Village are the two permanent settlements that have stood here for countless years. The Inupiaq village of Kaktovik is home to about 250 people. There are only 150 people living in the Gwich’in community known as the Arctic community.

While the Gwich’in Village dates to 500 AD, archaeological evidence suggests that the Arctic Village may have been inhabited as early as 4500 BC. Around 1900, people began to live in the permanent Gwich’in Village, which is still thriving today with seasonal fishing and hunting camps.

The Inupiaq and Gwich’in, commonly referred to as “The Caribou People,” continue to live in the ANWR today and depend on it for their subsistence.

Reaching There

There are no roads, settlements, campgrounds, or facilities anywhere in the refuge save the Arctic Village, which is located on its southern border.

The sanctuary has no facilities inside its boundaries and no roads leading into it. A little section of ANWR is brushed by Dalton Highway. A few tourists will park at this junction, which is just north of Atigun Pass, and opt to hike into the refuge. Still, the majority of visitors opt to fly from Fairbanks to Coldfeet, Kaktovik, Fort Yukon, or Deadhorse. They will then be dropped down on a river gravel bar or into the tundra area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge via rented aircraft.

Some guests travel as participants in a group led tour, but the majority of tourists arrive by private plane or hired air taxi, bringing their own food and equipment.

Summary of Activities

Hiking, rafting, and animal photography are just a few of the many activities available in this expansive region. Some people come only to experience the tranquilly of the far-flung woods. Although satellite phones are usually a safe choice, cell phone service is not available here.

There is a tonne of opportunity for exploration in the ANWR, and there is a new experience every day. Rafting is one of the most popular modes of transportation. Every summer, outfitters lead expeditions along the Kongakut, Hulahula, Sheenjek, and Canning Rivers. You can schedule a custom tour to fit your schedule and particular interests.

Tour operators will give the necessary equipment to explore a wild and amazing backcountry trip, along with an experienced guide, for those seeking some genuine nature experiences.

Some air taxi services may offer flightseeing trips for one-day sightseeing excursions. Select a boat trip that lasts one or more days to observe how many polar bears are visible along the shore.

The largest national wildlife refuge offers additional recreational opportunities for hunting, rafting, fishing, canoeing, pack rafting, birding, and animal viewing.


There are 39 terrestrial mammals, seven marine mammals, and 42 fish species in the vast ANWR.

The refuge is a crucial place for polar bears to lay their eggs. Furthermore, the Porcupine caribou herd—one of the biggest herds within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—uses it as a crucial calving habitat. Nearly 200,000 animals make up the Porcupine caribou herd, which travels throughout the ANWR. Mammals of the Land (39)

The polar, black, and brown bear species that inhabit North America can all be found in the Arctic Refuge. While brown and black bears are classified as land mammals, polar bears are classified as sea mammals. Among the current bear species, the polar bear is regarded as the largest. In the whole state of Alaska, it has the most land densities.

The second largest bear is the brown bear, sometimes referred to as the grizzly bear. These animals are also known to hibernate for up to eight months a year because of the long, harsh winters.

The largest herd of Porcupine caribou also resides in the largest national wildlife refuge. In addition, the central Arctic caribou herd, wolves, wolverines, Dall sheep, and muskox coexist with the caribou.

In order to give birth and nurture their young, caribou travel to the coastal plain in the summer months of June and July.

The Canada Lynx and coyotes live in the Arctic Refuge, as do the grey wolves. Medium-sized cats, this kind of lynx has long legs, large ear tufts, and a tail with a black tip. A lynx’s paws are thickly furred to aid with insulation in cold weather.

Marine Mammals (7)

There are killer whales, humpback whales, blue whales, walrus, sperm whales, and harbour porpoises that live in the Arctic Refuge. This is also home to northern fur seals and ringed seals.

Species of Fish (42)

The rainbow smelt, dolly varden, coho, blueback, and chum salmon are just a few of the numerous varieties of fish. The burbot and longnose sucker are examples of other species.

More than 200 species of birds

Given that the Alaska park is home to over 200 different bird species, this refuge is an excellent spot to observe a wide variety of birds. They come from four continents every year between April and July, either as migratory or resident birds, to feed, rest, or breed.

It is possible for birdwatchers to spot the golden eagle, mallard, short-eared owl, northern goshawk, or sharp-shinned hawk. There are also certain birds that are visible, such as the upland sandpiper, ruffed grouse, lesser scaup, and Eurasian teal.

Many of the birds that can be found in the refuge are not permanent residents. Instead, they move between one of the 50 states. They also migrate across six continents in order to reproduce and change their eating habits.


The largest national wildlife reserve has some incredibly different areas. extending from the treeless Arctic Coast of the Brooks Ranges to the east to the taiga of the Porcupine River Valley.

Numerous snow geese stop over in September on the coastal plain, which stretches from the coast to the foothills of the Brooks Range.

Majestic Brooks Range dominates the sanctuary. The rough mountains stretch 75 miles wide and flow east to west, crowned with glaciers. In contrast to the plain covered in tundra, the mountain range has many rivers and streams that flow through it, but no trees. On the other hand, the region situated south of the continental divide is home to spruce trees that adorn the valleys, which are accentuated by lakes and sloughs.

Numerous migrating water birds find home in the barrier islands, salt marshes, coastal lagoons and river deltas that line the northern boundary. Each year, shorebirds, geese, swans, and sea ducks land here.


The climate varies greatly throughout the region in terms of both temperature and precipitation, much like the landscape alternatives. Snow is reported to cover the land from September through May. Any month of the year can have below-freezing temperatures in any part of the ANWR, although the mountainous regions are particularly susceptible. Summer officially begins in June, July, and August.

Strong gusts, cloud cover, and fog are to be expected near the coast, along with lower temperatures. Inland regions, however, have clear skies, comfortable temperatures, and a range of wind speeds.

Explorers venturing south of the mountains should prepare for increased precipitation, more intense heatwaves, and reduced wind speeds.

The largest national wildlife refuge is frequently regarded as Alaska’s crown jewel. It makes sense that lovers of the outdoors and wildlife come back year after year with a plethora of activities, pristine wilderness, and a diversity of landscapes, weather, and activities.