The Innoko Wilderness is located in the southeastern portion of the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge and makes up roughly one-third of the total area. A transition zone between the boreal forestland of interior Alaska and the open tundra of western Alaska, Innoko Wilderness ranges from about 100 to 700 feet in elevation and 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.
Innoko Wilderness receives 13 inches of precipitation each year and can fall at any time in spring, summer, or fall. Summer temperatures average in the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) and between -15 F and 0 F in winter. Temperatures can drop to freezing any night of the year and extreme winter conditions sometimes reach 60 degrees below zero. 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.
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.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.