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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a massive National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaskan North Slope, which covers 19,043,236 acres (7,708,952 ha). The political moves to protect this area of Alaska started in the early 1950s but it wasn't until 1960 that it first became officially protected by the Federal Government under the administration of President Eisenhower. This was further expanded in 1980 when Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Originally eight million acres (32,375 km²) of the refuge was set aside as Wilderness Area, one of the highest level of protection for public land under USA law. In 1980 another 1.5 Million acres (6,070 km²) of coastal plain was added and 2,000 acres were designated for searching for natural resources primarily oil, which has been the source of much controversy in recent years. Many people believe that drilling for oil in this area would do untold damage to ANWR, while other believe that drilling technology has gotten safe enough that the impact would be minimal. The other 10.1 million acres (40,873 km²) of ANWR was designated for "Minimal Management."

Currently there are almost no roads within or going into ANWR. Interestingly though, there are few small villages within the refuge. On the northern edge there is the Inupiat village of Kaktovik and on the southern border is the Gwich'in village of Arctic Village. A popular hiking route is to walk the historic trail between the two villages that will allow trekkers to see all the different ecosystems of the refuge ranging from boreal, interior forest, to Arctic Ocean coast.




ANWR supports a greater diversity of plant and animal life than any other protected area above the Arctic Circle. This massive refuge covers more than six different ecozones and reaches 200 miles (320 kilometres) north to south. Along the northern coastal boundary of ANWR are the barrier islands, coastal lagoons, salt marshes and river deltas that are home to migratory water birds like sea ducks, swans, geese and other shorebirds. There are also several large mammals like polar bears, seals and caribou in this area of ANWR.

This coastal plain stretches southward from the coast to the foothills of the Brooks Range. These plains have rolling hills, small lakes and northward flowing braided rivers. The vegetation is mainly tundra, which is low shrubs, sedges and mosses. Caribou live on the coastal plains during June and July to give birth and raise young. Muskox live in this area year round.

South of the coastal plain is the northernmost part of the Rocky Mountains called the Brooks Range that rise to over 9,000 feet (3,000 metres). This rugged mountain range been cut deep by step river valley's and the south flowing rivers join the Yukon River. This mountain range is home to hundreds of different kinds of birds such as perigean falcons and golden eagles. It is also home year round to dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bears. The southern most part of the refuge is taiga, or boreal forest, of interior Alaska. It is home to many different kinds of animals and trees



Opening Hours

None. Just get there and camp.




Just getting there is the cost. Remember buying supplies inside ANWR is difficult and expensive, so it is best to bring everything you need with you.



Getting There

By Plane

By far the easiest way to reach ANWR is by plane. Several different puddle jumper airlines fly to the nearby villages or will even drop you off and pick you up in different parts of ANWR.

By Foot

Yes by foot. You have to park your car on the Dalton Highway, which is near the western edge of ANWR. Then strap on your hiking boots and start walking.

By Boat

It is possible to reach the coastal part of the park by boat from nearby coastal towns.




You bring it, catch it or shoot it, you can eat it.




Water and tea.




Back Country Camping

The only real option for sleeping is back country camping. Make sure to bring a good tent, warm sleeping bag and plenty of gear. There are no hotels within the park and other than the two villages, there is nowhere to resupply.


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This is version 5. Last edited at 14:21 on Jan 13, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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