Stretching 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—14 in all—of which nine 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: 30 land mammals such as moose and otter; 11 marine mammals, including several kinds of whales; and nearly three-dozen species of fish, including 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 treetops, 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 miles long and up to 15 miles 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 weigh a pound or less), was caught at Ugashik Narrows in 1981.
Remote and rugged, with the peninsula's signature unpredictable weather, the Becharof and Alaska Peninsula refuges draw mostly anglers and hunters. Backpackers, river runners, and mountain climbers also occasionally visit.