Scenic rivers and mountains decorate the backdrop of this protected habitat, home to 47 species of mammals
Protecting important seabird nesting sites and major salmon spawning rivers, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge extends over 4.7 million acres—an area the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined—from the cold waters of Bristol Bay to the treeless tundra uplands of the Ahklun Mountains to the north. Almost half of these lands, the northern 2.3 million acres, are designated as the Togiak Wilderness Area, the second largest contiguous Wilderness Area within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Cape Newenham/Togiak region of southwestern Alaska has been continuously occupied for at least 2,000 years. One site at Security Cove shows evidence of possible human occupancy dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years.
Prior to 1969, the area that was to become Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In 1969, some of these lands were set aside as the Cape Newenham National Wildlife Refuge. In 1980, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the 265,000 acre Cape Newenham Refuge was expanded and renamed to the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The northern 2.3 million acres of the refuge are designated as a Wilderness Area.
The rugged Ahklun and Wood River Mountains lie partly within the refuge, which also includes drainages for the Kanektok, Goodnews and Togiak Rivers. These pristine, free flowing rivers offer scenic qualities and outstanding recreation opportunities while providing important subsistence fisheries to their runs of salmon. The rivers contribute a large part of Togiak's production of nearly 3 million Chinook, sockeye, chum, pink and Coho salmon annually, the primary subsistence resource for residents of seven local villages.
Togiak Refuge features a variety of landscapes, including mountain crags, fast-flowing rivers, deep lakes, tundra, marshy lowlands, ponds, estuaries, coastal lagoons and sea cliffs. The broad glacial valleys of the Ahklun Mountain range cut the tundra uplands, opening into coastal plains. The Ahklun Mountains spread across 80 percent of Togiak Refuge.
The refuge's striking landscapes are complimented by a striking variety of wildlife. Togiak is home to moose, brown bear, wolverine, wolves and many smaller mammals. The Nushagak Peninsula, in the southeastern portion of Togiak Refuge, was the site of a successful 1988 caribou reintroduction.
Along the 600 miles of coastline, seals, sea lions, walrus and whales are found at various times. Cape Peirce, on the southwestern tip of the refuge, is one of only two regularly used land-based haul outs for Pacific walrus in North America with up to 12,000 male walrus hauling out here at one time. Some 201 species of birds have been documented within Togiak's boundaries.
The Togiak Refuge’s rivers are prime habitat for rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and Arctic char as well as all five species of Pacific salmon.
The majority of visitors arrive at Togiak during summer to participate in both guided and non-guided float trips on refuge rivers, focusing on sport angling and sometimes hunting. Other activities in the refuge include flightseeing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, birding and wildlife viewing. Cape Peirce is a popular viewpoint located on the far western edge of Bristol Bay, where visitors have the opportunity to see Pacific walrus, spotted and harbor seals, and a variety of nesting seabirds, including horned and tufted puffins and common murres.