Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge  

  • Size: 3.4 million acres
  • Established: 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act

Like a long string of coastal pearls, the Alaska Maritime Refuge protects scores of spectacular sights and rich wildlife locations across some 3,000 miles of Alaska’s shoreline. Only the hardiest adventurers set foot on the Refuge, though, because it covers some of the continent’s most remote and rugged terrain. 

Created in 1980 from parts of 10 previously established refuges, the Maritime Refuge boasts 2,500 islands, dramatic bluffs full of seabirds, spires jutting out of the ocean, tundra headlands covered in wildflowers, desolate sand beaches, towering active volcanoes and relics of WWII combat from when the Japanese invaded the Aleutians.

A single island like Kiska or St. Matthew hosts more than a million seabirds during nesting season. About 80 percent of the continent’s seabirds pass through the Refuge at some point during the year. Adventuresome travelers might see walrus, fur seals, sea lions while birders might see exotic species of auklets, kittiwakes, murrelets, black guillemot, and the endangered short-tailed albatross.

The Refuge spans an arc from the Canadian border near Ketchikan in the south through the Aleutian Islands in the middle of the North Pacific and north to Cape Lisburne on the Arctic Ocean. The easiest jumping off points for visiting the Refuge are the towns of Homer and Seward, on Alaska’s road system.

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