A group of seven remote islands in southwest Alaska have been set aside by the State of Alaska to protect one of the largest Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) haulout locations known in North America. Managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary provides a unique chance to view Pacific walrus, Steller sea lions and numerous seabirds like puffins and murres, in their natural habitat.
The Sanctuary is located in Bristol Bay, 65 miles southwest of Dillingham, Alaska. Out of its seven islands, Round Island is best known for its wildlife viewing opportunities. Some 500 to 3,500 walrus have been seen hauling out of the water there in the past. A camp is maintained by ADF&G staff during the summer to study the walruses and offer visitor services on the island.
Access to Round Island requires authorization to enter, prior to entering within three miles of the area. Five-day permits cost $50 per person and daily permits are available for $10 a head. The other islands within the Sanctuary do not require an access permit. A commercial transporter is available for hire in the village of Togiak. Togiak Outfitters offers a same day visit to Round Island for approximately $1,100 per person.
As with travel is other remote parts of the state, visitors to Round Island need to be self-sufficient and dress well for high winds, cool weather and periodic rainfall. Having good rain gear is essential. A camping site, with tent platforms is provided that requires a hike up a steep trail to an 80 foot bluff. Weather can chance unexpectedly, so visitors should anticipate delays in transportation back off the island.
More information on the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary can be found at the ADF&G website.
Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum