- Izembek NWR surrounds and protects the Izembek Lagoon, a critically important habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl and a designated Wetland of International Importance. Most of the refuge is designated Wilderness. The landscape includes volcanoes, glaciers, valleys and tundra
uplands sloping into lagoons of the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean. The congressionally designated Izembek and Unimak Wilderness areas contain over a million acres of lands with unique geologic features, outstanding opportunities for solitude, primitive recreation and exceptional resource values.
The lagoon contains one of the largest eelgrass beds in the world. Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, including nearly the entire population of Pacific brant and most of the world's emperor geese depend on the refuge during spring and fall migrations. Other geese, ducks and shorebirds are also abundant in the fall. The colorful Steller's eider, a threatened species which nests on the Arctic coast of Alaska and Siberia and molts on Izembek Lagoon in fall, is the most common wintering duck.
All five species of Pacific salmon are found in refuge waters. Brown bear, caribou, river otter, gray wolf and 19 other species of land mammals inhabit the refuge. Sea otters, Steller's sea lions and harbor seals are found on coastlines and gray, killer and minke whales are common offshore.
World War II brought frenzied activity to Cold Bay. Fort Randall was established as a western post to stave off Pacific invasions during WWII. During the Vietnam Conflict, Thornbrough Air Force Base served as a dispatch point for units en route to Asia. Most war era buildings have been torn down but relicts dot the landscape. Unexploded ordnance have been occassionally encountered in unexpected places. A brochure is availalble at the refuge headquarters to help you recognize the various types of ordance that you might find.
Recreation - The Izembek Refuge offers world-renowned waterfowl and brown bear viewing and hunting. Visitors access Cold Bay and the refuge by commercial airline and the Alaska State Ferry System. Forty miles of gravel roads and trails provide very limited access to the refuge from Cold Bay. The remaining three millions acres of wild lands can be accessed only by foot, boat or small aircraft.
The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge spans the tip of the Alaska Peninsula.