Bristol Bay’s remote landscape is punctuated by six major river basins, hundreds of lakes (including Iliamna Lake, the third largest lake in the U.S.), mountains, tundra, rolling hills, and volcanoes. The varied geography of Bristol Bay has captured the attention of scientists, naturalists, conservationists, and archaeologists.
The land and waters of Bristol Bay are home to nearly 300 wildlife species, including birds, fish and mammals.
Explore the geography of Bristol Bay, including native place names, with Bristol Bay Online, a mapping system that preserves traditional knowledge about hundreds of locations in the region.
Parks and Refuges
Since the creation of Katmai National Monument (later Katmai National Park and Preserve) almost 100 years ago, both the State of Alaska and the U.S. government have designated 11 specific areas in Bristol Bay as parks and refuges. This represents 37,763 total square miles (about the size of Indiana).
1. Alagnak Wild and Scenic River – This place name means “making mistakes” or “going the wrong way” in Yup’ik.
2. Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge – Its 3.5 million acres feature active volcanoes like Mt. Veniaminof, rugged coastline, and rolling tundra.
3. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve – Home to a six-mile wide “caldera,” or crater, left by a volcanic explosion nearly 3,500 years ago.
4. Becharof National Wildlife Refuge – Boasts a 35-mile lake that’s been described as a “salmon factory.”
5. Katmai National Park and Preserve – Here you’ll find the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a 40-square mile pyroclastic deposit created by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, which was the largest volcanic eruption on earth in the 20th century. Katmai is also known for amazing salmon runs and an abundance of brown bears that feed upon them.
6. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve – Two active volcanoes (Iliamna and Redoubt) are found here.
7. McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge – Only 10 people a day can visit, but there’s no limit for bears.
8. Togiak National Wildlife Refuge – Glacial ice carved the geographic features of this refuge, which consists of 4.7 million acres of roadless wilderness. 80 percent of the refuge consists of the Ahklun Mountains, rising high over glacial valleys and coastal plains.
9. Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary – Protects seven small islands south-west of Dillingham. Hot spot for viewing birds and sealife.
10. Wood-Tikchik State Park – At 1.6 million acres, it’s the largest of its kind in the United States.
11. Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge – This 3.4 million acre area includes Bristol Bay island coastline and provides essential habitat for 40 million sea- birds (representing more than 30 species).