Nunivak Wilderness

Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska.

The Nunivak Wilderness now contains a total of 600,000 acres and is managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service's a< href="">Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. All of the Wilderness is in the state of Alaska. In 1980 the Nunivak Wilderness became part of the now over 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System.

Off the coast of the delta formed by the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers lies 1.1-million-acre Nunivak Island, managed as part of the 20-million-acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Nunivak's southern half has been designated Wilderness.

Lava flows and craters found in the interior of the island, some of which hold deep lakes, attest to its volcanic origin. An extensive upland plateau stands 500 to 800 feet above sea level and supports a large herd of reindeer. Introduced in 1920, the herd now numbers over 4,000 individuals. The Eskimos of the village of Mekoryuk, the only community on the island, own and manage the reindeer. More than 40 rivers combine to drain the upland. Tundra, which dominates the landscape, gives way to rocky shores and saltwater lagoons filled with eelgrass (feed for migratory waterfowl) and backed by sand dunes. Isolated low mountains and buttes break the tundra. Vast seabird colonies nest on cliffs along the shoreline, and a large variety of migratory birds flock here in season. Sea mammals frequent the coastal region.

Nunivak Island is probably best known for its herd of great shaggy musk oxen. While the Alaskan musk ox became extinct around 1865, these were introduced here from Greenland in 1935. The herd flourished, growing to more than 750 members, and some were shipped to other regions of Alaska. Each year, a permit system determines which hunters will get to shoot a few of the musk oxen, the chance of a lifetime for many.

Nearby Activities


807 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway PO Box 346 Bethel, Alaska 99559 Phone: (907) 543-3151 GETTING THERE You cannot drive to the refuge since no roads lead into Bethel, the location of the refuge headquarters. Various airlines provide regular commercial flights to and from Bethel. Upon arriving in the airport in Bethel, drive 2 miles along one of the few paved road in town, the Chief Eddie Hoffman State Highway, to the refuge office and visitor center which is located across from the hospital (a structure known locally as the "yellow submarine"). From Bethel, most non-local visitors travel into the refuge by small aircraft. VISITOR CENTER & GIFT SHOP The visitor center offers a small museum that exhibits wildlife, interprets the uniqueness of tundra and includes a large relief map showcasing the expanse and ecological diversity of the refuge. A small sales outlet of Alaska Geographic is available, also located within the visitors center, offers a variety of wildlife and educational related products. Hours of operation are Monday – Friday 8 AM – 4:30 PM and Saturday 1 – 4 PM. For more information, call (907) 543-1018.

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