Skip to Navigation

Nushagak Bay

Site Facts

Country, State, Province/Region:

United States of America, Alaska

Relative Location:

A principal estuary along the north side of Bristol Bay


58°45' N; 158°40' W



Basis for Designation:

Hosts an estimated 60,000 shorebirds during post-breeding, migration, and staging.


108,500 hectares (268,109 acres)


March 2000

Site Owner/Steward:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Togiak National Wildlife Refuge)
U.S. Bureau of Land Management - Anchorage District
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Native Corporations/Villages/Boroughs: Bristol Bay Borough, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Choggiung Limited, City of Dillingham, Clarks Point Traditional Council, Manokotak Traditional Council

Site Partners:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Nongame Migratory Bird Management
U.S. Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division

Human Population within 100 km:



Michael Swaim
Wildlife Biologist
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

About Us

The Nushagak Bay WHRSN Site encompasses 108,500 hectares of marine, intertidal, and estuarial habitat within Southwestern Alaska’s greater Bristol Bay region.  This shorebird reserve extends south down Nushagak Bay from the Town of Dilligham to Cape Constantine and Etolin Point, where it adjoins the Kvichack Bay WHRSN site.  

Nushagak Bay is an important staging and stopover site for dozens of migratory shorebird and waterfowl species, and it contains one of the largest and most pristine sockeye salmon fisheries in the world.  Previous surveys suggest the highest density of shorebirds occur along the mud bays and tidal estuaries of the Nushagak Peninsula, where post-breeding aggregations of 20,000-plus birds have been counted.  A total of 33 species have been seen along the lower mudflats of the Snake and Igushik Rivers, Ten Day Creek, Protection Point, Coffee Point, and Nichols Spit. 

Post-breeding aggregations are predominantly comprised of Dunlin and Western Sandpipers, although Rock, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, and Short-billed Dowitchers are also common. Other notable species include the Whimbrel, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Pacific Golden-Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Spotted Sandpiper, and the Hudsonian and Bar-tailed Godwit.  Most of these birds are long-distance migrants that visit the area seasonally to replenish their energy reserves while migrating between their nesting and wintering grounds along the Pacific and East-Asian/Australasian flyways.  

Ecology & Conservation

Only a few assessments of shorebird use have been conducted in this area.  Research priorities should include more intensive studies of migratory use, including an assessment of turn-over rates.  An all-season assessment of shorebird use would likely qualify this site as one of international importance. 

Current Threats:
- Offshore drilling
- Oil spills   

Research and Management Activities:
Lands within the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge are managed for the benefit of fish and wildlife resources and other compatible uses in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (1996) and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (1980).


Special Information

This is a very wild and remote area.  Small fixed-wing aircraft can be chartered in Dillingham, but access is both expensive and difficult.  Outside the towns of Dillingham and Clark’s Point, there are no developed facilities for tourists. 


Michael Swaim
Wildlife Biologist
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 270
Dillingham, Alaska 99576
(907) 842-1063

Kim Trust
Nongame Migratory Bird Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 E. Tudor Road
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

Robert. E. Gill, Jr.
Biologist, Alaska Biological Science Center
Biological Resources Division
U.S. Geological Survey
1011 E. Tudor Rd., Anchorage Alaska, 99503

Additional Resouces

Gill, R.E., Jr. and J. Sarvis. 1979. Distribution and numbers of shorebirds using Bristol Bay estuaries: results of an aerial survey conducted between 2 and 5 September 1997. Unpublished Report, Alaska Biological Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, 6 pp.

MacDonald, R. and J. Wachtel. 1999. Staging and migration of shorebirds along the Nugshagak Peninsula, Bristol Bay, Alaska - fall, 1999. Unpublished Report, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dillingham, AK, 18 pp.