COLVILLE RIVER

WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE

Along the southeast border of the Reserve, the Colville River Delta is the largest and most productive river delta in northern Alaska. An Aquatic Resource of National Importance, the Colville River Special Area encompasses 2.44 million acres and incorporates two miles on either side of the Colville and two of its major tributaries – the Kikiakrorak and Kogosukruk Rivers. The Colville River flows for 391 miles through the Colville River Special Area, the entirety of which lies north of Alaska’s Brooks Range.

AQUATIC RESOURCE

The Colville River Delta is the largest and most productive river delta in northern Alaska.

FOSSIL FUN

Bluffs in the region contain the world’s most extensive polar-region collection of dinosaur and other fossils

FIND FALCONS

The cliffs along the Colville River provide critical nesting sites and adjacent hunting areas for peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, golden eagles and rough-legged hawks.

FALCON FACTS

The name "peregrine" means wanderer, and the peregrine falcon has one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. In fact, falcons that breed in the Colville River area may fly to South America for the winter, travelling 15,500 miles in a single year.

WONDERFUL WOLVES

Wolf densities along the Colville River corridor are also higher than anywhere along Alaska’s northern coastal plain.

HAWKS

Rough-legged hawks (named for their feathered legs) in the region migrate to many of the United States. Their nests have been known to contain caribou bones as well as sticks.

THREATS

Oil and gas development, which includes drilling pads, pipelines, roads, energy generation, hazardous chemicals and wastes, human wastes and gravel pits, can have measurable negative impacts on Arctic wildlife, particularly to caribou and nesting bird populations. Local residents from Nuiqsut attempted to fight decisions that would allow for ConocoPhillips to construct a bridge, suspended pipeline and road to its Colville Delta-5 (CD-5) project. However, CD-5 is now producing oil and ConocoPhillips is rapidly ramping up additional development plans, moving forward with projects in the Reserve at its Greater Mooses Tooth 1 and 2 (GMT1 & GMT2) sites. GMT1 includes a gravel drilling pad, an eight-mile road, plus pipeline and associated facilities for nine initial development wells. Add to that the potential footprint of GMT2, and the spider web of development that was just a theory prior to CD- 5 is now being constructed for real. In addition, there is still a threat from potential offshore development especially in state waters in the Beaufort Sea.

Climate change is also having a profound effect on the region – the rapid warming of the Arctic is leaving the Colville River thawed for more months out of the year than ever before. This poses challenges to local residents in safely navigating the land and in collecting food. Thawing and runoff from longer periods of warmer temperatures causes erosion which limits boat travel to these remote communities, otherwise only reachable by plane, and the added sediment from the collapsing of river banks causes water quality problems for fish populations.

PEOPLE AND THE COLVILLE RIVER

Two communities are located on and near the Colville River. Nuiqsut is south from the mouth of the Colville River, and north of the Colville River Special Area boundary. Anaktuvuk Pass is south of the Colville River. Both communities rely on the health of the Colville River for subsistence, traditional and customary use activities. The Colville River supports the only substantial overwintering habitat for Arctic cisco, an important subsistence fish species. Additional fish species found in the Colville River include round whitefish, lake trout, northern pike, long nose sucker, Alaska blackfish and various species of salmon.

The Colville River also provides summer habitat for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd as it seeks food and insect relief, while the Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd and Central Arctic Caribou Herd may sometimes use the Colville River as winter habitat. Fish Creek, a tributary of the Colville River crucial to subsistence, provides rare wildlife habitat and subsistence opportunities and is currently under threat from development.

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FEATURED ANIMAL: GYROFALCON

Gyrfalcon: The largest of the falcon species, the Gyrfalcon breeds in arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere and preys mostly on large birds. Nests in other birds’ nests, usually on cliff ledge;

Wingspan: Males, 43-51 inches long/Females, 49-64 inches long;

Weight
: Males 1.8-3 lbs/Females 2.6-4.6 lbs;

Range
: Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with populations in Northern America, Greenland, and Northern Europe;

Fun Fact
: The gyrfalcon is the national symbol of Iceland.