Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge
Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge is characterized by the Yukon and Nowitna Rivers floodplains. But from the air the nearly 2 million-acre preserve appears like a mosaic of wet meadows, oxbow lakes and black spruce muskegs broken up by dense stands of white spruce as well as paper birch, balsam poplar, alders and willows. Nowitna possesses more forested lands than most Alaskan refuges while its 14,000 lakes and ponds come alive each spring with the arrival of thousands of migratory songbirds and waterfowl.
The heart of the refuge is the Nowitna River. The main channel of this meandering river is 283 miles long and 223 miles lie within the refuge. The headwaters of the Nowitna are in the Kuskokwim Mountains and from there the river ranges from 150 to 450 feet wide, and has a mild gradient and Class I water before flowing into the Yukon. Along the way this nationally designated Wild and Scenic River passes through an impressive 15-mile canyon with peaks up to 2,100 feet.
The grassy margins of ponds and lakes and the many miles of rivers and streams are important breeding habitat for waterfowl, including ducks, geese, swans and cranes. The Nowitna River supports king and chum salmon, northern pike and one of the only three non-migratory populations of sheefish in Alaska. Sometimes called "tarpon of the north," sheefish reach 10 to 15 pounds, and are much sought after trophies with sport anglers. Arctic grayling are in most clear water streams on the refuge while forested lowlands are home to marten, moose, wolves, lynx, wolverine, black and grizzly bear.River trips are the main method of exploring the refuge with sport fishing, hunting and wildlife photography and viewing the most popular activities.