Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge  

  • Size: 9 million acres
  • Established: 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act

Yukon Flats is a land of superlatives. It has the highest density of breeding ducks in Alaska. Its temperature range – 170 degrees, from 70 below in winter to 100 above in the summer ­– is one of the most extreme on earth. The area survived one of the country’s most environmentally destructive proposals, the Rampart Dam on the Yukon River, which would have flooded an area larger than Lake Erie.

At 9 million acres, Yukon Flats is the third largest unit in the National Refuge system – about the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined. The mighty Yukon River cuts through the refuge, creating a wetland basin covering 10,000 square miles.

With its hot summers, Yukon Flats has frequent lightning storms that set off wildfires. Since 1981, more than a quarter of the Refuge has been swept by fire, which recharges nutrients in the soil and stimulates new plant growth that is ideal food moose and other wildlife.

The rich river valleys of Yukon Flats are also prime territory for beaver, lynx, marten, mink, muskrat and river otter. That bounty of fur-bearing animals drew trappers from the Hudson Bay Company in the early 1800s and helps sustain local Indian villages today.

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