Also great as a private trip. Call for details

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 that makes even places like the Grand Canyon seem small. Once under threat from mining interests, the river is now entirely protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, encompassing the vast preserves of 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. Together, these four parks create the largest contiguous protected wilderness on the planet, encompassing more than twenty million acres of remote, isolated land. The Alsek runs through one of the earth’s last great frontiers!

Since 1972, we have been pioneering expeditions in Alaska, earning recognition for our rafting adventure down the Alsek from multiple publications. In April 2008, National Geographic Adventure named it “one of ten trips where green travel is making a difference,” in 2006, Men’s Journal claimed that “Mountain Travel Sobek knows the Alsek better than anyone.” These are honors we take to heart and which are not possible without the leadership of our professional river guides. In addition to teaching you all the necessary pointers for navigating the exciting, Class II-IV rapids, they’ll explain the evolution of the canyons and glaciers and point out the tremendous array of wildlife along the way. Camping around the crackling campfire, enjoying delicious meals that they’ve prepared for you, you’ll hear the stories and legends that have shaped this unspoiled corner of the world. All you need to do is bring your adventurous spirit!

The great glacial forces that shaped our North American continent are alive and well on this river, plainly evident as we float past huge calving glaciers and jaw-dropping mountain scenery. While the Alsek is not known as a whitewater river, there are plenty of good rapids, like Class IV “Lava North,” and a few days of continuous standing waves, referred to by our guides as “God’s fastest scenic conveyor belt.” But the biggest draw of the Alsek is the overwhelming grandeur of this land, with day after day of stunning natural scenery untouched by the hand of man. Huge snowy peaks and vast glaciers fill our every view, culminating in an awesome vista at Alsek Lake, where we share the placid currents with sculptured icebergs and admire the goliath 15,325-foot Mount Fairweather reigning above. With exhilarating days of rowing and several optional hikes, this expedition is a worthy pilgrimage for thrill-seekers of all kinds.

Fairly wide and slow at our put-in, the Alsek’s volume and speed gathers steam as countless side streams and glaciers pour into it on its relentless roll toward the Gulf of Alaska. Along the way, we’ll spot a vast array of wildlife, with the possibility of seeing grizzly bear, moose, mountain goat, beaver, wolf, muskrat, wolverine, mink, weasel, snowshoe rabbit, hoary marmot, and Alaska red fox—to say nothing of the various species of birds! Midway through the trip, we’ll come to Turn Back Canyon, a 5-mile-long, 30-foot-wide, virtually impassable gorge with big rapids and huge hydraulics. Only a few daredevil kayakers have made it through unscathed, and an exciting helicopter portage will offer us a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent landscape and a bypass over this treacherous chasm. After arriving at the Alsek’s confluence with another iconic river—the Tatshenshini—we’ll ride through dense forest canyons of willow, birch, and alder as we float through slower waters and a more maritime climate to the Alsek Bay.

With raw nature on display at every bend of the river, you’ll end your adventure feeling like a true explorer. Come experience the excitement of nature’s largest wilderness by raft with the Alaska adventure pioneers since 1972!


The Alsek was rated as one of the top ten rivers in the world in the December 2006 issue of Men’s Journal!

“It’s not unusual to find dinner plate-size grizzly tracks in your camp during a 12-day blitz through the Alaska panhandle, borne by this river’s Class II-IV glacial silt-laden waters. Mountain Travel Sobek knows the Alsek better than anyone.”

Activities

Scenic rafting with some Class II/III rapids, one Class IV (oar boats only), optional moderate to strenuous day hikes

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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: Yakutat

Download Detailed Itinerary
Itinerary
  • Alk_day01_bgstk_haines
    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.

  • Alk_day02_lmp_oarboats
    Day 2 : Travel to Haines Junction in Yukon Territory, Canada

    Drive up the Chilkat River Valley, across the border into British Columbia, and on to Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory. Put in on the river, and begin rafting.

  • Alk_day03_lmp_goatherd
    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.

  • Alk_day06_lmp_lava
    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).

  • Alk_day7_rfs_bears
    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.

  • Alk_day10_lmp_glacierhike
    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.

  • Alk_day11_lmp_fairweather
    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.”

  • Alk_day13_lmp_flight
    Day 13 : Dry Bay – Departure

    End rafting at Dry Bay and take a scenic bush plane flight to Yakutat. Depart Yakutat.

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: June - August Departures: Jun 23, 2015 - Jul 5, 2015 Jul 1 - 13, 2015 Jul 19 - 31, 2015 Aug 19 - 31, 2015

PRICING:

2015 Prices
$4,095 + tax (7–12 members)
$4,395 + tax (5–6 members)
$150 single supplement
Internal air included

  • Halsingland Hotel
    Haines

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

photo credits: © Laura M. Parent, MTS Photo File



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Activity Ratings

Easy

Many activities are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding sea kayaking and river rafting trips with Class I-II rapids.

Moderate

More active trips involving hiking over moderate terrain, usually - but not always - with vehicle support and at elevations less than 10,000 feet, or trips with long hiking days, multiple sea kayaking days, wilderness camping, or other invigorating activity. On many trips, you can elect to skip a day's activity, depending on logistics. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips and river rafting trips with Class III rapids.

Strenuous

Hiking and trekking over steeper or more rugged terrain or where elevations may exceed 10,000 feet - often several days in a row. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips (4-5 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

Ultimate Challenge!

Our most demanding trips: trekking over steep, rugged terrain at high elevations (no vehicle support) or with substantial altitude gains and losses; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips. Includes our most demanding sea kayaking (5-7 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

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Departure Dates

Jun 23, 2015 - Jul 5, 2015 Jul 1 - 13, 2015 Jul 19 - 31, 2015 Aug 19 - 31, 2015
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