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Innoko Wilderness

General Maps Area Management Wilderness Laws
Photograph taken in  the Innoko Wilderness

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Innoko Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 1,240,000 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Description

Along the eastern bank of the Yukon River, bordered on the north by the Khotol Hills and the south and east by the Kuskokwim Mountains, Innoko National Wildlife Refuge is split into two huge halves that together contain 3.85 million acres. The southeastern portion of the refuge, roughly one-third of the total area, has been designated Wilderness. A transition zone between the boreal forestland of interior Alaska and the open tundra of western Alaska, Innoko stands well over half in wetlands of muskeg and marsh, lakes, meandering rivers, and streams dotted with islands of black spruce and an understory of mosses, lichens, and shrubs.

Paper birch and white spruce cover hills rolling up from the Yukon and Innoko Rivers, and along the rivers you'll find numerous privately owned subsistence camps used periodically for hunting and fishing by Native Alaskans. The rivers, bound with willows and alder, run rich with salmon, whitefish, sheefish, grayling, and northern pike. All the lakes have northern pike except the shallow bodies of water that freeze to the bottom in winter.

More than 20,000 beavers live in these wetlands, the densest population in the state, along with moose and caribou, black and brown bears, red foxes, coyotes, lynx, otters, wolves, and wolverines. An estimated 65,000 white-fronted and lesser Canada geese spend their summers here with more than 380,000 other waterfowl and shorebirds, including pintails, scaups, shovelers, scoters, widgeons, red-necked grebes, lesser yellowlegs, and Hudsonian godwits. Hungry mosquitoes cloud the summer landscape.

Of the few human visitors, moose hunters are the most common. They find no trails, no facilities, and no immediate aid from the refuge staff of seven permanent employees who live 70 air miles away. Camping is unrestricted, except on private inholdings. Campfires are permitted, and firewood is abundant.

You could get rained on anytime in spring, summer, or fall, and temperatures could drop to freezing any night of the year. Winter temperatures sometimes reach 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. From May through July light is almost constant, and the sun never sets in mid-June. In mid-December the sun never rises. If you come, bring rubber boots for walking. You'll need binoculars for observing all the wildlife--except the mosquitoes, of course, which are inescapable.

Planning to Visit the Innoko Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Innoko Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.