Key Facts

  • Nulato is located on the west bank of the Yukon River, 35 miles west of Galena and 310 air miles west of Fairbanks. It lies in the Nulato Hills, across the River from the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge. It lies at approximately 64° 43' N Latitude, 158° 06' W Longitude (Sec. 08, T009S, R004E, Kateel River Meridian).  The area encompasses 47 sq. miles of land and 7 sq. miles of water.
  • The area experiences a cold, continental climate with extreme temperature differences. The average daily maximum during July is in the lower 70s; the average daily minimum during January is well below zero. Several consecutive days of -40 degrees is common each winter. 
  • The highest temperature ever recorded is 90; the lowest is -55. Average precipitation is 15.6 inches, with 74 inches of snowfall annually. 

Native Heritage & Russian Roots

The Koyukon Athabascans traditionally had spring, summer, fall, and winter camps, and moved as the wild game migrated. There were 12 summer fish camps located on the Yukon River between the Koyukuk River and the Nowitna River. Nulato was the primary trading site between Athabascans and Inupiat Eskimos from the Kobuk area.

Western influence began when the Russian explorer Malakov established a trading post at Nulato in 1839. THe encounter proved fateful, as a small pox epidemic, the first of several major epidemics, struck the region the same year. Domestic disputes also troubled the area. A disagreement over local trade may have been partly responsible for the Nulato massacre of 1851, in which Koyukuk River Natives decimated a large portion of the Nulato Native population.

The Western Union Telegraph Company explored the area around 1867. Nulato was also a center of missionary activity, and many area Natives moved to the village after a Roman Catholic mission and school, Our Lady of Snows Mission, was completed in 1887. Epidemics continued to take heavy toll on Native lives after the onset of the Yukon and Koyukuk gold rush in 1884. Food shortages and a measles epidemic combined to kill as much as one-third of the Nulato population during 1900. 

The area flourished as a hub for trade. Through the turn of the century, two steamers a day would stop at Nulato to purchase firewood. A post office was opened in 1897. But the activity receded when gold seekers left the Yukon after 1906, only to be renewed in 1919 when lead mining opened in Galena.

Nulato incorporated as a City in 1963. A clinic, water supply, new school, telephone and television services were developed through the 1970s. In 1981, large-scale housing development began at a new townsite on the hills north of the City, about 2 miles from the old townsite.


Nulato residents are predominantly Koyukon Athabascans who pursue trapping and subsistence lifestyle. Most of the full-time employment in with the City of Nulato, the tribe, a school,  a clinic and a store. During the summer, BLM fire-fighting positions, construction work and fish processing are important sources of income. Trapping provides subsistence foods, which are a major portion of the diet, and many families travel to fish camp each summer. Salmon, moose, bear, small game and berries are utilized.