Partner logos: Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, University of Montana Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage

Chamisso Wilderness

General Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Images
A break in the blanket of clouds, allows the sun to illuminate Chamisso Island as it rises from the water, like the shell of a turtle poking out of the water's surface.
Library image #2007: Chamisso Island taken from Puffin Island, August 14, 1977


The United States Congress designated the Chamisso Wilderness (map) in 1975 and it now has a total of 455 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


Northernmost of five units of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the Chukchi Sea Unit contains about 200,000 acres on and off of 500 miles of Alaska's northwestern coast. A small subunit of the Chukchi Sea Unit, Chamisso Island and nearby Puffin Island, were combined as a wildlife refuge in 1912, designated Wilderness in 1975, and added to the AMNWR in 1980.

Chamisso has one large sand spit and a low beach zone surrounding a covering of tundra with a few marshy bogs. Although Chamisso Island is much larger, Puffin Island houses many more nesting birds, especially horned puffins, black-legged kittiwakes, and thick-billed murres who build their nests on the steep-walled cliffs that fall into Spafarief Bay. An unusual sight is horned puffins digging burrows in which to lay their eggs, much like tufted puffins do. Eskimos still cross from the mainland to gather eggs, primarily from kittiwakes and murres.

Nothing lives on the islands except for birds and the occasional fox that wanders over on the frozen sea in winter. Walruses, seals, and whales often may be seen in Spafarief Bay. Boating is dangerous due to frequent storms that blow in during cool summers and frigid winters. Daylight never leaves in mid-June and appears briefly as twilight in mid-December.

Planning to Visit the Chamisso 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 Chamisso 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.