INNOKO NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Remote and isolated even by Alaska standards, the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most important waterfowl areas in West Central Interior Alaska. It was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Conservation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity is a focus of the refuge.
Innoko National Wildlife Refuge can be roughly divided into two distinct habitat types. Approximately half of the refuge consists of black spruce muskeg, wet meadows, and sedge or horsetail marshes, set with innumerable lakes and ponds of varying size. The rest of the terrain is marked by hills, most of which are less than one thousand feet in elevation. The refuge covers some 3,850,000 acres, with its 1,240,000 acres of designated Wilderness found in the south-east, bordered by the Innoko River on its western boundary and including portions of the Iditarod and Big and Little Yetna Rivers.
Given the extensive wetlands contained within the refuge, it's not surprising that Innoko is blessed with a wealth of avian life. It's estimated that 130 species of birds use these lands, and that more than 300,000 waterfowl and shorebirds nest on the refuge every spring.
Frequent flooding of Innoko's many rivers and streams helps fertilize surrounding soils and maintain the rich willow sandbar habitat that provides winter food for the refuge's moose population, as well as for the beaver that are common along virtually all of Innoko's waterways. Barren ground caribou from the Beaver Mountain Herd winter on Innoko when deep snows move them down from the uplands, while both black and grizzly bear and wolves are present year around. Other fur-bearers include marten, lynx, red fox, river otter and wolverine.
More than 130 bird species are found on the refuge. The extensive wetlands provide habitat for more than 300,000 nesting waterfowl and shorebirds. Innoko is an important nesting area for white-fronted and lesser Canada geese, pintail, wigeon, shovelers, red necked grebes, lesser yellow legs and Hudsonian godwits. Neotropical birds that nest on the refuge include the alder flycatcher, varied thrush, Swainson's thrush, yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, northern waterthrush, fox sparrow and savannah sparrow.
One of the primary reasons the Innoko Refuge was created was its importance as a waterfowl area in Interior Alaska. The Innoko Refuge provides a vast area of wetlands crucial for waterfowl nesting, resting, staging, and molting.