Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge
This dynamic refuge stretches along the “Tetlin Passage,” an important bird migration corridor.
Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge is part of the world’s largest contiguous conservation unit, sharing a border with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Kluane National Park in Canada. The Alaska Highway borders the refuge, providing unique opportunities to access the area. The park is located southeast of the community of Tok.
THINGS TO DO
Thanks to its proximity to the Alaska Highway - the refuge boundary is adjacent to the south side of the highway for almost 65 miles - Tetlin offers a wide range of activities and facilities, including hiking, birding, camping, fishing, and hunting. Birding is best in spring and fall and easily done from pullouts along the Alaska Highway that overlook wetlands, ponds, and lakes.
Located along the Alaska Highway are seven pullouts featuring interpretive panels. At Mile 1240 of the Alaska Highway is Hidden Lake Trail, a mile-long trail that features boardwalks through deciduous and lowland forest to provide a dry hike to Hidden Lake. There is also a small boat launch at Hidden Lake and launches at the Chisana River just south of Mile 1264 and Desper Creek at Mile 1226. The refuge also features two campgrounds, three public use cabins, and primitive camping at Seaton Recreation Area.
One of the best ways to explore Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge is by canoe. Lakes at both of the refuge's campgrounds offer easy paddling. Other popular padding destinations are Desper Creek and Scottie Creek. These clear, slow-moving creeks are accessed at Mile 1223 and Mile 1225 of the Alaska Highway and can be a one-day outing or made into an overnight trip of up to 17 miles. Longer canoe trips are possible on the Chisana River, as are opportunities for backpacking.
Sportfishing is another popular activity in the area. Tetlin waters support whitefish, Arctic grayling, northern pike, and burbot. Hidden Lake is stocked with rainbow trout.
The Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, located about 80 miles southeast of Tok at Mile 1229 of the Alaska Highway, was built in the style of a log trapper's cabin with a sod roof. The center features exhibits that allow visitors to "travel" through the ecosystems of the refuge and interact with the history of the area with hands-on displays. Outside is a large observation deck with spotting scopes.
The refuge is situated inside the 'Tetlin Passage,' a major migratory route for birds traveling to and from Canada, the Lower 48, and both Central and South America. While many of the birds move on to other breeding grounds, about 117 species remain in Tetlin to nest.
Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge also supports a variety of large mammals. Dall sheep dot the higher slopes while moose feed on the tender new growth that springs up in the wake of frequent lightning-caused fires. Wolves, brown bears, black bears, and members of three different caribou herds range over the refuge.
Located in the upper Tanana River valley, the refuge consists of diverse landscapes including forests, wetlands, tundra, lakes, glacial rivers, and foothills that rise to the snowy peaks of the Alaska Range. Like the rest of Interior Alaska’s boreal forest, the refuge's black spruce forest is an evolving masterpiece, reshaped each year by woodland fires. Plants and animals here have adapted to fire and often benefit from it.
FACILITIES AND CAMPING
The Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located 8 miles from the Canada border at Mile 1229 of the Alaska Highway.
The refuge also has two campgrounds along the Alaska Highway. At Mile 1249.3 is Deadman Lake Campground with 15 campsites in the spruce forest along with fire rings, picnic tables, and a boat ramp. Also at the campground is Taiga Trail, a quarter-mile interpretive walk to an observation deck on Deadman Lake and a photo blind that offers visitors an opportunity to photograph waterfowl and moose in a wetland setting. At Mile 1256.7 is Lakeview Campground with 11 campsites along with tables, fire rings, and a boat launch on Yarger Lake.
Three public use cabins are available on a reservation basis in the refuge. Wellesley Lake and Jatahmund Lake Cabins are accessible only by float plane. Nabesna River Cabin is accessible by boat on the Nabesna River.
The Seaton Recreation Area in the refuge has a pavilion, primitive camping sites, and two spur trails for visitors to explore the wetlands. Camping is only allowed on the designated areas along the trail.
The northern boundary of Tetlin Refuge extends 65 miles along the Alaska Highway, providing foot access from the Canada border at Mile 1221.5 to Mile 1242. The Tetlin Refuge headquarters is located in Tok while the refuge's Visitor Center is located at Mile 1229 on the Alaska Highway, just east of the Canada border.
Small boat and canoe access is available at Desper Creek at Mile 1225.4, the Chisana River Bridge in Northway at Mile 1264, the old Riverside airstrip at Mile 1281, and at the Tanana River Bridge at Mile 1303.6. Access to the interior of the refuge is by air charter service and snowmobile in the winter.
For more information, visit the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge website.
Local Climate & Weather
For Alaska's day-to-day weather, it’s best to plan for a bit of everything. Learn more about weather in this area.