Region 3 West: Central Interior
Region 3 (west) includes the interior of the state, west of the Dalton Highway, south through Fairbanks and west of the George Parks Highway. It contains the central Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, the two longest rivers in the state. The land is mostly carpeted by black spruce forests, with frequent large openings of muskeg and tundra. Salmon fishing is mostly limited to the Yukon River watershed, however most of the region is far from the ocean, so it does not see the larger runs found in other regions. Fishing for grayling and northern pike is excellent. Big game species commonly encountered in Region 3 (west) include Dall sheep, moose, caribou, black bear and brown / grizzly bear.
The Road System
Region 3 (west) is bordered on its eastern edge by the Dalton Highway (the "Haul Road") in the north, and the George Parks Highway south of Fairbanks. These roads don't penetrate the area, but they do offer road access to several river systems that flow through the area. The road system in Region 3 provides good coverage to most of the area, and links all the principal towns throughout. The State of Alaska does a pretty good job of maintaining our paved roads, however some roads located in outlying areas may not receive as much attention. A common problem is "frost heaves"; cracks across the roadway that are caused by the expansion and contraction of the roadbed as it freezes and thaws. In some cases the asphalt can crack all the way across the road bed, leaving bumps and dips in the road that can cause problems for drivers traveling at higher speeds.
The Alaska Milepost details everything you need to know about driving the remote highways in Alaska, including camping areas, pullouts, fuel stops, and lots of good tips on avoiding trouble. The Milepost is a must-have for any extended road trips you take in Alaska, as it contains many tips on what you need to bring with you, and what you need to know simply to survive on Alaska's highways, where the nearest help may be hundreds of miles away. Pick up your copy HERE.
George Parks Highway
Known locally as the Parks Highway, this is the main artery between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It runs north from Anchorage, through the towns of Wasilla, Willow, Cantwell, Nenana and eventually Fairbanks. Drivers should be alert for moose crossing the highway just about anywhere, but particularly in the area between Wasilla and Willow. Also be aware that the long stretch between Cantwell and Nenana is not always as well-maintained as sections closer to Anchorage or Fairbanks, and drivers may encounter occasional frost heaves.
Dalton Highway (the Haul Road)
The Dalton Highway is primarily a truck route for big rigs that supply the Prudhoe Bay oilfield operation; the road has numerous single-lane bridges and you must yield to truck traffic. Because the road is very long with few services along the way, you must be self-contained. Keep your gas tank full! As an added precaution consider bringing along a CB radio, tuned to Channel 19. This is the frequency most commonly used by truckers in the area. If you have an emergency, you may be able to get a message out to a passing trucker.
The Bureau of Land Management produces a very informative guide to the Haul Road, which includes maps and detailed instructions. There are several ways to obtain this free booklet:
- CLICK HERE to read the guidebook online, save it to your desktop (and take it with you on your mobile device).
- Call the Fairbanks BLM office at 1 (800) 437-7021 or 1 (907) 474-2200
- Write to the BLM to request a free hard copy at the following address:
1150 University Avenue
Fairbanks, AK 99709-3844
The central interior region contains many public-use cabins. Most require advance reservations and user fees are usually charged by the night. Amenities are spartan; expect to find an outhouse, bunks with no bedding or mattresses, no food, dishes or cookstove, and no power or running water. Most have wood-fired or oil-fired stoves for heat. See our Public-Use Cabins page for locations, recommended gear, reservation and contact information.
Flying Out in Region 3
A number of towns in Region 3 offer opportunities to hire an air charter / air taxi service to drop you off for remote hunting, fishing or other recreational opportunies.
Bettles is not accessable by road; the most common means of access is via air from Fairbanks, a distance of 179 miles "as the raven flies". Scheduled commuter flights are available, however for expedition rafting groups it may be cheaper to charter the aircraft, due to the high price of shipping your gear as cargo. Some charter air services are based in Bettles, offering access to the central Brooks range and other locations to the west and south of Bettles.
Located on the Dalton Highway north of Fairbanks, Coldfoot is the last gas stop before you reach Prudhoe Bay, 250 miles to the north. This is also the last place you can charter a Bush flight until you reach Happy Valley. Coldfoot offers wheel plane access to remote locations in the central and eastern Brooks Range. Most folks utilizing these services park their vehicle at the air service, where it is secure until the return.
Fairbanks, the largest town in Region 3, offers both float and wheel plane charters to get you into remote locations in the Brooks Range and throughout the central part of the region. Fairbanks also offers regularly scheduled jet service from Anchorage and even direct flights to and from Seattle. Additionally, flights are available from Fairbanks to Bettles, Galena, and other remote towns off the road system. Finally, Fairbanks offers daily air cargo service through a variety of carriers.
Charter air services are available in Galena, and the town is served by scheduled commercial passenger and cargo service out of Anchorage or Fairbanks. Galena is not on the road system.
Happy Valley Camp, located on the Alaska Oil Pipeline, is an oilfield service camp just south of Prudhoe Bay. Charter wheel-plane services are available there for flights into the north-central Brooks range, however the early arrival of winter in this area makes scheduling remote drop-offs and pick-ups in this area an iffy proposition after the middle of September. Drive there from Fairbanks or Prudhoe Bay.
A minor hub in the western interior, McGrath is served by regularly-scheduled commercial passenger and cargo services. Some cargo companies in McGrath offer covered cargo storage; check with your operator to ensure they can keep your stuff under cover until you arrive. McGrath also offers several commercial air charters to get you into remote areas on floats or wheels. The charter operators are usually augmented by air charters that temporarily move in during hunting season to shoulder some of the passenger load as needed. Some of these operators may be more inexpensive than the locally-based services, however they may not know the area as well. Therefore some outdoorsmen opt to go with locally-based outfits as a way of increasing their odds of success when hunting or fishing the area. McGrath is not located on the road system.
Region 3 Boating Opportunities
The interior contains several large river systems that can be accessed from Alaska's road system. These access points provide launch opportunities for jet boats and air boats, which are often used to access prime fishing and hunting areas.
A number of rivers flow north or south out of the Brooks Range, and these rivers offer excellent floating for fly-out rafters, canoeists, and kayakers interested in multi-day expedition river trips. Additionally there are other rivers both on and off the road system that offer excellent opportunities for recreational boating and related experiences such as float fishing and float hunting.
Beaver Creek | Chatanika River | Huslia River | Koyukuk River North Fork | Nowitna River
The interior offers some of the best northern pike fishing in the state, together with top action on grayling, sheefish and some rainbow trout opportunities.
Region 3 Hunting Opportunities
There are many options for hunting the Interior; start your research with any of the resources linked below. We have a lot of hunt planning resources here!
Alaska Hunting Regulations | Alaska Hunt Planning Resources | Alaska Hunt Consultation Service
The state of Alaska is divided into 26 Game Management Units (GMU), some of which are divided further into sub-units. Each of these units or sub-units may contain different species, different seasons, and different legal requirements for hunting. GMUs are aggregated into regional groupings, and each of these regions operate under the oversight of a team of ADFG employees, including area biologists who are responsible for game management in their assigned portions of the region. There are five regions in the state of Alaska. Outdoors Directory uses these regions to divide the state into smaller pieces, for the sake of organization. When you plan your Alaska hunt, you need to know both the GMU in which you will be hunting, and the region. In this way you can ensure you are following the correct regulations for the area, and you know which regional biologist to contact for details about that area.
Region 3 (west) contains GMUs 19, 20(C), 20(F), 21, portions of 24(A), 24(B), 24(C) & 24(D), and is administered out of the Fairbanks office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Region 3 offers opportunities for moose, caribou, brown/grizzly bear, black bear, Dall sheep and wolf. There are ample waterfowl opportunities as well as upland bird hunting for grouse and ptarmigan. As is true in most of Alaska, small game hunting includes showshoe hare, with populations that fluctuate from year to year.
The Interior is home to several big-game species, and it's important that you learn as much as possible about these animals before your hunt.
Want to learn more about the critters that inhabit the Central Interior of Alaska? You'll find information on all the big-game species in this area AT THIS LINK. Here is a listing of them; simply click on one to read more about it.
Bison | Black Bear | Brown Bear | Caribou | Dall Sheep | Goat | Moose | Wolf
ADF&G Region 3 Information
ADF&G Management and Harvest Reports, a vital hunt-planning tool, can be found AT THIS LINK. Reports are listed in sequential order by species. For detailed research into population trends, review several reports. For more recent data contact the area biologist.
The ADF&G biologists for Region 3 are located in Fairbanks. The phone number there is 1 (907) 459-7206.
Other Activities in Region 3
There are many more outdoor recreational opportunities in Region 3; Check our Activities section for some ideas.