The Innoko Refuge is not accessible by car. The majority of access is by small airplanes equipped for water landings during spring, summer and fall. Winter access is by small ski planes, snowmobile or sled dogs when ice and snow conditions are sufficient. Due to its extremely remote and isolated location, access to the refuge by watercraft is, in most cases, not practical due to excessive varying distances and river conditions. From Shageluk it is 20 miles to the southern refuge boundary by boat. From Grayling, the refuge boundary is on the eastern side of the Yukon River. During high water boaters can enter through Holikachuk Slough. From the east, boaters can access the upper Innoko River at Ophir, though low water may be encountered in the late summer. It can take a week or more to traverse the refuge. A refuge map will give you more detailed information. Watercraft transportable by small aircraft, such as inflatable rafts and folding kayaks, can be used for transportation within the refuge.
Most visitors reach the refuge using privately owned aircraft, commercial guiding & outfitting services (pdf), and commercial air taxi operators. Commercial operators
must have an Innoko National Wildlife Refuge Special Use Permit to operate on the refuge. The majority of outfitting services are through the village of McGrath, which is served by commercial airlines operating out of Anchorage. Weather can change quickly so be prepared for rain and cold temperatures. Bitting insects are an ever present item during the summer months. Since both black and grizzly bears inhabit the refuge, travelers should take special safety precautions.
Innoko Refuge is open to a number of recreational opportunities. Due to its extreme remote location, only the most common activities are listed here. Hunting, fishing, and trapping are allowed in accordance with Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations and federal subsistence regulations.
Innoko Refuge is home to a healthy population of moose; hunters come from around the State, USA and other countries for a chance at one of these trophy animals. Access to the refuge is by private aircraft, equipped for water landings, or by boat. Commercial access is provided by hunting guides and air taxi operators who have a permit to operate on the refuge.
The weather during the moose season can range from mild days in the 50's to freezing rain and snow, and can change from one to the other with very little warning. Most other types of hunting occur in conjunction with moose hunts; including bear, wolf, and waterfowl.
The Innoko River and its vast number of connected lakes provide habitat for large and aggressive northern pike. These fish range in size to over 45 inches. Some people say the next Alaska State trophy northern pike will come from the Innoko River system. Additionally, whitefish, grayling and incidental salmon are taken from the waters of the Innoko River.
One of the most enjoyable and practical ways to visit and see the vast Innoko Refuge is by floating down the Innoko, Iditarod, or Dishna Rivers. There are no roads to or on the refuge, therefore float tripper’s must plan to fly their boats and gear to the upstream reach of the proposed trip and most often plan to be picked up somewhere downstream.
Much of the trapping that takes place on the Innoko Refuge is subsistence and done by local people, however there are some folks who cannot resist the call of years past and still set trap lines for recreation. Species include wolf, wolverine, marten, beaver, and lynx.