The Bush Sights


The Becharof and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges

The Becharof and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges Review

The Becharof and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges stretch along the southern edge of the Alaska Peninsula. These two refuges encompass nearly 6 million acres of towering mountains, glacial lakes, broad tundra valleys, and coastal fjords. Volcanoes dominate the landscape; there are 14 in all, of which 9 are considered active. Mt. Veniaminov —named after Alaska's greatest Russian Orthodox bishop—last erupted in 1993. Other evidence of volcanic activity includes Gas Rocks, where gases continually seep through cracks in granitic rocks, and Ukrinek Marrs, a crater that bears the marks of a violent eruption in 1977.

Aside from the rugged volcanic landscapes, which are reason enough to come, the two refuges are best known for Garden of Eden–quality wildlife. More than 220 species of resident and migratory wildlife use the refuges, including 30 land mammals such as moose and otter; 11 marine mammals, including several kinds of whales; and nearly three-dozen species of fish, with the five main types of salmon. Look up for nearly 150 species of birds, from the bald eagle doing its perfect impersonation of life after taxidermy high in the tree, to Alaska's trickster, the raven, as well as enough waterbirds to keep a hard-core twitcher at the binoculars for a week. Just put the binocs down from time to time to keep an eye out for the brown bears that live in every corner of the refuges.

Becharof Lake, at 35 mi long and up to 15 mi wide, is the second-largest lake in Alaska (behind Lake Iliamna). Fed by two rivers and 14 major creeks, it serves as a nursery to the world's second-biggest run of sockeye salmon. Ugashik Lakes are known for their salmon and trophy grayling. The world-record grayling, nearly 5 pounds (most grayling weigh a pound or less), was caught at Ugashik Narrows in 1981.

Remote and rugged, with the peninsula's usual unpredictable weather, the Becharof and Alaska Peninsula refuges draw mostly anglers and hunters; however, backpackers, river runners, and mountain climbers also occasionally visit.

Updated: 06-12-2013

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