Area InformationThe Royal Coachman Lodge is located in the middle of the Wood-Tikchik State Park, the nation's largest state park. The Park is adjacent to the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Both the Park and the Refuge provide exceptional fishing for our guests, but also offer some of the largest and most diverse wildlife and birdlife populations in Alaska. These resources inhabit a spectacularly beautiful landscape that, due to the hard work of federal and state officials, native corporations, and conscientious sportsfishing operators, is still very pristine. During your week, you will fish waters in the Park, the Refuge, and a variety of other rivers throughout southwestern Alaska.
The Park is filled with mountain peaks, high alpine valleys, and deep v-shaped arms. The western arms of the lakes are sandwiched between steep mountains, which give them a fjord-like appearance. On the eastern edges of the lakes, you will find islands, gravel beaches, and the expansive tundra of the Nushagak lowlands. The lakes vary in length from 15 to 45 miles, are deep, and average 40°F to 60°F in temperature throughout the summer season.
All five species of Pacific salmon - king, sockeye (red), pink, silver, and chum - spawn in the Wood and Tikchik River systems. Rainbow trout, grayling, lake trout, arctic char, dolly varden, and northern pike are also present throughout the Park. During the week, you will fish for each of these species at different locations throughout the Park.
The Park is home to a remarkable wildlife resource. Moose, caribou, and brown bear are found throughout the park. In addition to these large mammals, you will also see beaver, muskrat, otter, fox, wolverine, mink, and porcupine. There are also healthy populations of ground squirrels and marmots.
Like much of Alaska, the bird life in the Park is abundant. You will likely see a ducks, gulls, bald eagle, golden eagle, arctic tern, loons, spotted and least sandpipers, semi-palmated plover, willow ptarmigan, and spruce grouse. The lodge has a great collection of bird books which you are welcome to use while you are at the lodge. Additionally, there are bird books listed in the bibliography which will greatly enhance your bird watching during your visit. These can all be purchased at Amazon.com.
The Refuge was officially formed in 1980 when Congress enacted the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). ANILCA established four major purposes for which the Togiak Refuge was to be managed: to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity; to fulfill the international treaty obligations with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats; to provide, in a manner consistent with the Refuge’s purpose, for continued subsistence uses by local residents; and to ensure water quality and necessary water quantity within the Refuge.
We have three permits to operate within the Refuge. One permit allows us to fish the Kulukak River for salmon, one gives us access to the Togiak River, and the third authorizes us to fish the wilderness lake portion of the Refuge. The permits are special use permits which are subject to a series of conditions. We take compliance with these conditions very seriously, and ask that you cooperate with us to comply with the terms of our permits.
The Refuge encompasses about 4.7 millon acres. Of that acreage, 4.1 million acres are federal land located between the Kuskokwim Bay and Bristol Bay. The northern boundary joins the Yukon Delta National WildlifeRefuge, and the eastern boundary is the Wood-Tikchik State Park.
This vast swath of land, which is approximately the size of Rhode Island and Connecticut together, is home to a variety of landscapes; glacial valleys, tundra uplands, lakes, wetlands, sand and gravel beaches, rugged mountains (the Ahklun Mountains spread across 80 percent of the Refuge), and coastal cliffs. The topography creates numerous ecosystems and habitats which are home to a rich diversity of fish, wildlife, and birds.
The fishery resources of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge are among the best in the world. Specifically, the rivers and lakes of the Refuge are home to resident populations of Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, Lake Trout, Northern Pike, as well as 22 other fish species. The Refuge rivers and bays are also home to one of the world’s most robust anadromous fish resources in the world. All five species of Pacific Salmon are found within the Refuge and serve as the backbone for much of the terrestrial and aquatic life within the Refuge. In total, approximately 3 million Pacific Salmon are produced each year within the habitat protected by the Refuge management regimen.
The fishery resource is valued at $14 million with $8 million being attributed to the commercial fishery and $6 million being attributed to the commercial sportsfishery. In addition to the commercial value of the salmon resource, the salmon provide a significant subsistence value to local communities.
The Refuge is also home to at least 30 species of terrestrial mammals and 201 species of birds, many of which you will likely see many during your stay. Ranging from Brown Bears and Caribou to the Little Brown Bat, the Refuge wildlife relies heavily on the habitat protections provided by the Refuge management regime as well as the continued health of the fishery resources within the Refuge.
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is also home to unique cultural resources. For at least 2000 years, three different groups of native people, collectively known as the Yup'ik people, have lived within the Refuge. The Kuskowogamiut occupied the area from the Kuskokwim River south to Chavan Bay. The Togiagamiut (also known as the Tuyuryarmiut) lived along the Togiak drainage and adjacent coast, from Cape Newenham to Cape Constantine. The Alegemiut (also known as the Aglurmiut) lived along the Lower Kuskokwim into the Bristol Bay and Nushagak Bay areas. The archeological history of these early occupants of Refuge land are evident throughout the Refuge. In light of this historic use, the Refuge manages its resources to provide for the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents. We make every effort to minimize our impact upon the subsistence uses of local residents.
Maintaining subsistence opportunities for local communities is one of the main purposes of the Refuge. Yup’ik subsistence activities are a way of life for the residents within the Refuge. Salmon compose the majority of the subsistence harvest for residents of the Refuge. They are harvested by net along the coast as well as in some major rivers and lakes. In addition to the salmon, coastal communities harvest herring, smelt, and char. Inland communities harvest pike, grayling, whitefish, and char. Marine mammals – walrus, seals, and belugas – continue to be important food sources for local villages. All combined, freshwater and marine subsistence resources provide as much as 80 percent of the subsistence activities of some villages.
Subsistence activities also rely heavily on terrestrial resources. Moose, Caribou, Bear, Beaver, Porcupine, Hares, and berry gathering constitute the majority of the land based subsistence activities. Throughout the year, firewood gathering takes place. Most firewood is collected along the coastal beaches, riverbanks, and lake shorelines within the Refuge. For this reason, we do not build any fires within the Refuge.
During your week, you will be fishing the Kulukak River for salmon. The Kulukak River flows into Kulukak Bay. It is a relatively small river, but is very important for salmon spawning and rearing. Within the last ten minutes of the flight to the Kulukak, spectacular game viewing can be had. Moose and brown bear are often spotted around Ualik Lake and the surrounding creeks. Keep your eyes open, as this is usually the best opportunity to see these discrete mammals.
The Kulukak River originates at approximately 900 feet in elevation at the head of a long valley located between the Igushik and Ungalikthluk drainages. It flows approximately 40 miles before entering Kulukak Bay. The drainage is a combination of tundra and tidal flats most of its length. Lower stretches of the river are characterized by alders, willow scrub, and tidal grasses, whereas the upper river is home to larger trees. The lower stretch of the river has overcut banks, with the bottom 2 miles of the river being tidally affected. The upper stretch of the river is generally shallow with braided channels, gravel substrate, and some non vegetated vertical banks.
The fishery resource of the Kulukak River is outstanding for a river its size. The Kulukak serves as a spawning river for all five species of Pacific Salmon and is home to a healthy population of Char/Dolly Varden. The first salmon to enter the river are the Sockeye and Chinook Salmon in late June. They are followed shortly thereafter by Chums and Pinks. Coho Salmon close up the salmon migration.
The Kulukak River and Bay supported a signigicant Yup'ik village until the early 1940’s. The village of Kulukak was situated on the southwest coastline overlooking Kulukak Bay. The people of the village depended heavily on the rich salmon, marine mammal, and bird populations within the Kulukak River and Bay for their survival. Subsistence use continues here today.
With very few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of the subsistence activities occur in the spring before commercial sportfishing, which greatly reduces our impact on the subsistence activities on the Kulukak. Similarly, the majority of the subsistence activities take place along the bay and not within the river.
For those of you interested in learning more about this area and some of it's history, we suggest Arctic School Teacher; Kulukak, Alaska, 1931-1933, by Abbie Morgan Madenwald. It provides a captivating account of village life in Alaska.
Royal Coachman’s special use permit on the upper Togiak River is in the wilderness area of the refuge. The permit allows us to use two boats and guide up to 4 anglers on a specified seven mile section. It is a beautiful and productive stretch of river with all five salmon species in addition to rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and grayling.
The river originates from Togiak Lake and flows 48 miles before emptying into Togiak Bay. It is an important subsistence use area for the natives of Togiak village, which is located on the bay near the river’s mouth. The Togiak River is used for hunting ptarmigan, waterfowl, small and large game, and fishing for both resident and anadromous fish. Subsistence use on the upper Togiak is common in August through October for berry picking, herb gathering, hunting and harvesting spawned out Sockeye and fall Dolly Varden along the banks of Togiak Lake. We see the most activity in our area in September when the moose season is open.
There are several parcels of native conveyed lands within this area. All of our activities respect these private parcels. RCL follows a strict policy of never trespassing on private property or fishing within sight of subsistence users. Because of the special restrictions in the wilderness area, be sure to follow your guide’s instructions.
Our Wilderness Lakes Permit in the Togiak Naitional Wildlife Refuge is located in federally designated wilderness areas within TNWR. These lakes are at the headwaters of the Goodnews, Togiak, and Kanektok Rivers. The lakes are surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Refuge and are the most remote areas we fish. Due to the mountainous surroundings, we can only fish these lakes on good wearther days, but this makes for exceptional sight seeing. The permit only allows for one fishing party to be on the lake at a time and we can only fish a particular lake once a week. This combination of regulations ensures that you will have an isolated wilderness experience.