A world-class rafting voyage through a wilderness of unparalelled beauty and grandeur
To ride down the Alsek River is to enter a wilderness of unparalleled beauty and scale. The Alsek runs through the largest contiguous protected wilderness on the planet, encompassing Kluane National Park Reserve (the Yukon’s premier wilderness area), the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park, and Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks. This is truly one of the earth’s last great frontiers! Praised by both National Geographic Adventure and Men’s Journal, this is a worthy pilgrimage for thrill-seekers of all kinds. Raft down Class II-Class IV rapids watching glaciers calve into the water and spot tremendous array of wildlife on its shores. Camp by the river each night and enjoy delicious meals while listening to river legends and lore told around the campfire by our professional rafting guides. Take an exciting helicopter portage over a treacherous stretch of river, enjoy optional day hikes up mountain peaks, float past the dense canyon forests, and see largest icebergs in all of Glacier Bay National Park. With raw nature on display at every bend of the river, you’ll end your adventure feeling like a true explorer.
Scenic rafting with some Class II/III rapids, one Class IV (oar boats only), optional moderate to strenuous day hikes
- Join this expedition praised by both National Geographic Adventure and Men’s Journal, with the Alaska adventure pioneers since 1972
- Raft Class II-IV rapids on the Alsek River through one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the world, created on the grandest scale imaginable
- Enjoy delicious meals and tales of the river told by our professional rafting guides around a crackling riverside campfire beneath the stars, or maybe even the Northern Lights!
- Take an exciting helicopter portage to catch a bird’s eye view of Turn Back Canyon, the Alsek’s most treacherous canyon of Class VI whitewater
- Enjoy optional hikes in search of wildlife
- Float past the largest icebergs in all of Glacier Bay National Park in Alsek Lake
Duration: 13 days Start Location: Haines End Location: YakutatDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Haines, Alaska
Arrive in Haines, Alaska by 3:30pm to have enogh time to check in and clean up for your 5:00pm pre-trip meeting at the Halsingland Hotel. We have reserved rooms for our group at the Halsingland Hotel. Just mention you are part of Alaska Discovery group. This room is included on the price of your trip.
Day 2 : Travel to Haines Junction in Yukon Territory, Canada
After breakfast on your own, meet at the Halsingland Hotel lobby at 8:00 a.m. and board a van for a beautiful 3½-hour drive (155 miles) up the Chilkat River Valley, across the border into British Columbia, and on to Haines Junction in Yukon Territory, Canada. En route we’ll stop at the Kluane National Park visitor’s center to learn a bit about this vast wilderness. After lunch, we drive to the put-in point on the Dezadeash River, about an hour from Haines Junction. (There is an opportunity to hike part of the way to the river; this is an easy hike with good views of the surrounding mountains.) Launch rafts and begin river trip, floating down the Dezadeash to the confluence with the Kaskawulsh River, where the true Alsek River begins. (If it’s very windy, the guides may elect to stay at this campsite overnight and put in on the river early the next morning.)
NOTE—Because we are making a border crossing into Canada, you will need a passport as proof of nationality. Please check visa requirements for entering Canada if you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen. If you are traveling with children and both parents are not present, Canadian customs requires a notarized letter from the child’s absent parent(s) saying that they are aware of their child’s whereabouts. A photocopy of the absent parent’s ID(s) and phone number are needed. Minimum age for child participation on this trip is 14.
Days 3 - 5 : Rafting and hiking along the Alsek River
Continue downstream, passing through mostly Class II rapids and enjoying the vast scenery. As the river current speeds up we’ll begin to realize the volume and force of the Alsek. We’ll pass large bedrock islands and possibly have time to stop and hike up into the heights above the river for spectacular panoramic views.
We float further into the wilderness and may camp near the Lowell Glacier, part of the vast St. Elias icefields. The river is quite wide here, almost a “lake,” and we may have a chance to row near some of the awesome icebergs calved off from the glacier. A good hiking option from this area is a scramble up 3,500-foot Goatherd Mountain. Wildflowers bloom here all summer long, and the groundcover turns to bright autumn colors in August. It’s about four hours to the summit, where we’ll be rewarded with outstanding vistas of the St. Elias range and the huge, spilling Lowell Glacier. On clear days, it’s possible to see Mounts Kennedy, Hubbard and Alverstone, over 35 miles to the west. Mountain goats are often seen on the cliffs and in the meadows along our route.
Day 6 : On the Alsek River
Launch the rafts into the river and navigate through the icebergs at the snout of the Lowell Glacier. It’s a surreal scene as the icebergs calve off the glacier and float in this lake-like section of the river. The river picks up speed dramatically as it begins to cut through narrower canyons and increase in volume. We take easy routes through some of the rapids; by mid-afternoon, though, we encounter “Lava North,” a challenging section of Class IV whitewater that’s exciting and thrilling. Our guides will scout the rapid beforehand and determine the best route through; you’ll be in the most capable of hands (in fact, they make running this rapid look easy).
Days 7 - 9 : Day hikes along the Alsek – Helicopter portage
For the next few days the water is swift with continuous small rapids as the river cuts through the Alsek Range. During these days on the river, we’ll take several day hikes to explore the area. We may spot grizzly bear, Alaska moose, mountain goat, beaver, wolf, muskrat, wolverine, mink, weasel, snowshoe rabbit, hoary marmot, and Alaska red fox along with numerous species of birds. The scenery changes constantly until we come to the Tweedsmuir Glacier, where the river cuts through the sheer rock walls of the Alsek Range on the east and the massive, boulder-strewn terminal moraine of the Tweedsmuir on the west. As the glacier cuts into the river, it forms Turnback Canyon, filled with sharp drops and horrendous currents. We may take a relatively easy hike to the canyon, and once there, the impossibility of rafting this section of the Alsek is apparent. Only 30 feet wide in places, the river becomes a boiling cauldron of unnavigable rapids.
We’ll prepare our gear for transport, and a helicopter will fly in to ferry us and the equipment to the gravel flats south of the canyon. From the chopper you can see every hairpin turn and the churning water crashing into the canyon walls. This is the narrowest part of the river, and once on the other side the scenery changes. The river is wider and there are numerous braided channels. The vegetation is greener, and bald eagles perch along the mossy cliffs of the Icefield and Noisey Ranges. Depending on the time of portage, we'll relaunch the rafts and drift through the wide valley to the majestic confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers.
Day 10 : Tatshenshini River
On the southern horizon, a dozen or more glaciers flow down from the summits of the Fairweather Range, while the Alsek disappears into the symmetrical peaks and waterfalls of the Noisey Range to the north and east. To the west, the main channel of the Alsek flows into the Icefield Range where it seems to sink into the forest. In the middle of all this is a vast, gravel flat, braided with constantly changing channels and ringed with forests of willow, birch, and alder. We continue down the river through the deep forested canyons toward the coast. The climate becomes more maritime as we get closer to the Gulf of Alaska and the glaciers more numerous. Farther down the river, a large glacier has sprawled down its valley to within a few yards of the river’s edge. Named the “Walker Glacier” by river-runners, it offers a venue for those who are eager to try a glacier hike.
Days 11 - 12 : Alsek Bay
We continue to float towards Alsek Bay (also known as Alsek Lake), spotting many species of birds, including bald eagles, semi-palmated plovers, spotted sandpipers, northern phalaropes, American pipits, and more. The Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers flow into Alsek Bay, and we’ll watch and listen as giant chunks of ice calve into the water from the seven-mile face of the Alsek glacier. Some icebergs are 75 feet high, indicating a depth below the surface at least twice as great. The guides will row among ice floes sculpted into bizarre, fluted, ever-changing phantasmagoric shapes—a veritable “iceberg garden.”
Day 13 : Dry Bay – Departure
After floating into the flat, forested plains beyond Alsek Bay, we arrive at the Dry Bay Fishing Company outpost along the estuary of the Alsek River. (Dry Bay is named for the mud flats in low tide, certainly not for the weather patterns here.) Small aircraft will meet us for our spectacular charter flight to Yakutat in time for the scheduled Alaskan Airlines service to Juneau (we have tailored this trip around this flight, and Juneau is your gateway city to other destinations). Most guests choose to return to Juneau this night and often get together for a no-host dinner at a local restaurant. We recommend you stay in Juneau this evening as some flights homeward necessitate a forced overnight in Seattle before connecting with onward-bound flights. We’ll provide you with a list of hotels in the pre-departure information booklet.
DATES: Best time to go: June - August Departures: Jun 23, 2015 - Jul 5, 2015 Jul 1 - 13, 2015 Jul 19 - 31, 2015 SOLD OUT Aug 19 - 31, 2015
This Victorian-era hotel offers all the amenities of a modern stay in historic surroundings. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Halsingland was once the Commanding Officers Quarters of Alaska's notable Fort Seward. Many guest rooms are adorned with the original decorative Belgian fireplaces or claw-footed bathtubs.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Brock Tabor, Alaska Discovery River & Kayak Guide: For ten years Brock has been committed to a professional career as an outdoor educator and wilderness guide. His experience range from teaching skiing, sea kayaking, rock climbing, and river rescue to photographing the plazas of Ecuador. Brock has a strong background in natural history which he enjoys sharing. Of guiding for Alaska Discovery, Brock writes, "I enjoy the opportunity to interact with people in an unusual setting. The rewards people gain through these trips are contagious!"
Brian Stevenson has been a professional river guide for twenty years. He continues to lead expeditions throughout the world, yet he always looks forward to returning to the rivers and mountains of Alaska. Brian says Alaska's rivers provide a wilderness experience which is unparalleled by any other place he's ever been. Brian holds a degree in geography and is a lifelong student of world politics
Christa Sadler is a geologist, educator, river guide and writer with a serious addiction to rivers, deserts, mountains and chocolate. Christa has been guiding on the rivers of the West since 1986, and although she has a home in Flagstaff, Arizona, she's hardly ever there. Her research in archaeology, geology and paleontology has taken her around the globe, including searching for dinosaurs in Montana, fighting off dust storms and overly curious camels in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, and steering clear of annoyed marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands. Christa also runs ‘This Earth,” a small business that brings geology and fossil programs to students aged K-12 around the country. She loves to write about geology, rivers, fossils and the land, and she has published several books and articles. She teaches and guides in the spring and fall, and escapes to Alaska in the summers to guide and write. Winters are usually spent recovering. Or sea kayaking in Baja California.
Mike Speaks has a list of international guiding experiences that reads like the archives of the old Explorer's Club in London. He was recently the expedition leader for a 590-mile National Geographic trip down the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. He has rafted first descents in Malawi, Ethiopia, Borneo, Madagascar, and Pakistan. He has been a river guide for two decades on the greatest rivers of the world, including the Zambezi, the Bio-Bio, the Tatshenshini, and the Alsek. He has assisted in film documentaries of Egypt, Burma, India, and Bhutan. He has explored all the rivers of northern Pakistan. This Alabama boy will have you speaking with a drawl within minutes, yet he makes his home on the flanks of Mount Denali in Alaska. He's a naturalist, a ski mountaineer, a whitewater expert, an experienced sea kayaker, and a humorist through it all. Michael is a favorite for his quick wit, take-charge style, and outstanding leadership.
Sam Jansen, Alaska Discovery River Guide: Sam grew up in northern Arizona and studied creative writing and geology. While working for the U.S. Geological Survey, he fell in love with the Grand Canyon, whitewater, and wilderness guiding. Since 1991, Sam has been exploring many of North American's wild places by raft and kayak. Sam is an excellent videographer, but he is best known for a wit drier than the Arizona desert.