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Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge  

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is an 8.6 million-acre preserve straddling the Arctic Circle in eastern Interior Alaska. This is the land of the midnight sun where during the summer there is 24 hours of daylight and in the winter none, resulting in great seasonal extremes in temperature. Summer temperatures can easily exceed 90°F, warmer than any other comparable latitude in North America and winter can plummet to -70°F.

The vast majority of the refuge - 6.5 million acres - consists of the Yukon Flats, a vast floodplain bisected by 300 miles of the Yukon River and dotted with shallow lakes, sloughs, and meandering and braided streams. This makes Yukon Flats one of North America's most productive wildlife habitats. The refuge has the greatest overall nesting density of ducks in Alaska, hosting as many as 2 million ducks annually that arrive from 11 countries, eight Canadian provinces, and 43 of the 50 states. Most of the canvasback ducks that nest in Alaska do so on the Yukon Flats.

Other wildlife include an abundance of furbearers including beaver, lynx, marten, mink, muskrat and river otter. The rich furbearer resource is the reason why the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Yukon in 1847 within what is now the refuge and by the 1920s the outpost had become the most important fur center in Alaska. Moose and black bear are also common while the larger grizzly is found in lower concentrations. Wolves are found throughout the refuge and caribou and Dall sheep can be spotted in the upland regions and on the alpine tundra of the White Mountains and Hodzana Highlands.

The refuge is open to a variety of activities including boating, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, gold panning and wildlife viewing and photography. Float trips in particular are a common way to experience Yukon Flats. Canoers, kayakers and rafters can access the refuge via the Yukon, Porcupine, Sheenjek and other rivers. Some canoers put in at Upper Beaver Creek reached via Nome Creek Road and the Steese Highway northeast of Fairbanks and either float to a pick-up spot at the refuge boundary or continue on the Yukon River to the Dalton Highway Bridge.

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