Alaska West operates a world-class fly fishing lodge located in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, 5 miles upriver from the Alaska Native village of Quinhagak, on the banks of the Kanektok River in far western Alaska along the coast of the Bering Sea.
So where in the heck is that? Quinhagak is a coastal community located in the southernmost reaches of Kuskokwim Bay. It is 425 miles WSW from Anchorage, 75 miles due South of the hub village of Bethel and 190 miles WNW from Dillingham. We are right in the middle of nowhere.
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
The Togiak National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 4 million acres of lands that the US government deemed appropriate to manage by the objectives set forth in the National Wildlife Refuge system’s directive to, among other things, conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.
Its northern border is the Yukon Delta National Wilderness Refuge. Its Eastern border is the Wood Tikchik Lakes and Wood Tikchik State Park. The southern border is Bristol Bay and the western border runs 50 miles inland of Goodnews and Platinum until it bisects the Kuskokwim Bay coastline. Several villages fall within the refuge’s boundaries including Eek, Quinhagak, Platinum, Goodnews, Manokotak and Togiak. The refuge is mainly comprised of coastal flats, river flood plains and high tundra plains. Two mountain ranges run through the refuge– the Kilbuck range and the Ahklun range. Both are heavily eroded by ice, wind and water, and their highest peaks are less than 4,500 feet high.
The area is habitat to over 48 mammal species, 31 land-bound including caribou, wolves, moose, brown and black bear, foxes, beaver, muskrats, minks, river otters, voles and porcupines. 17 marine mammals live in the refuge including sea lions, walruses and whales. Three main river drainages host all five species of pacific salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, arctic grayling, arctic char and pike.
Over 200 bird species nest in the refuge including golden and bald eagles, peregrine falcons, murres, numerous species of waterfowl and shorebirds. Willow and cottonwood make up the scrub forests along the riverbanks and the tundra is flush with lichen, berries, dwarf trees and grasses.
From the river the world looks lush with a short forest of spindly trees, bushes and grasses, but gain 15 feet of elevation and look out over the treetops and the view is a vast flat tundra plain pocked with an uncountable number of ponds and lakes, that runs every direction until it crashes into the sea, bumps into a mountain or drops into a river’s path.