Rafting & Hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
This spectacular river rafting and hiking adventure introduces you to the breathtaking beauty of Alaska’s famed Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll take a 300-mile bush flight across the very top of North America to the upper reaches of the Marsh Fork, nestled in the Philip Smith and Franklin Mountains. Then navigating the river to the confluence with the Canning River, we then paddle toward the Arctic coastal plain through some of the wildest country on earth. (Alaska Native names for the Canning include Kogruak River, Kugruak River, and Kuguru River.)
Along the way you’ll stop for long day hikes up the ridgelines and mountains of this spectacular wilderness valley, and watch for grizzlies, Dall sheep, wolves, musk ox, and more than 80 species of birdlife, including four of the five species of Arctic loons, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and rough-legged hawks. And since there is nearly continuous daylight, there’s ample time to hike and photograph the amazing scenery! This area is one of our most fascinating and ecologically diverse national treasures, and there’s no better way to see it than with us!
Rafting & Hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Experience the magnificent Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and see all that it stands for
- Dall sheep, grizzlies, wolves, musk ox, and more than 80 species of birds
- Rafting days are complemented by leisurely layover days to hike, photograph, and explore to your heart’s content
- Opportunity to float all the way to the Beaufort Sea
Duration: 10 days Start Location: Fairbanks, Alaska End Location: Fairbanks, AlaskaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : To the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
We will try to adhere to the following itinerary as closely as possible. However, it is subject to change due to weather, flight delays, and government regulations.
Rendezvous—The trip begins in Fairbanks, Alaska. You will need to arrive in Fairbanks no later than 5:00 p.m. the night prior to the trip in order to attend the mandatory pre-trip meeting that begins at 6:00 p.m. at the Fairbanks Bed & Breakfast (902 Kellum St., 907- 452-4967).Your trip leader will go over trip logistics, bear-country camping techniques, water safety instructions, and distribute personal camping equipment, including raingear, rubber boots, and river bags. The meeting will take about two hours; we recommend eating dinner before the meeting. Dinner and lodging* is on your own this evening. The next morning we pick everyone up early, so you will want to get plenty of rest tonight.
*We recommend the Bridgewater Hotel (rooms with private bath) or the Fairbanks B&B (rooms with shared bath). Both are of good value and offer good service. (A courtesy van for the Bridgewater Hotel is available at the airport. Call the hotel from the airport courtesy phone.)
This day is mostly devoted to flying north! After an early breakfast on your own, our journey begins with a spectacular 300-mile bush plane flight over the Yukon River Flats to the Native community of Arctic Village. We then switch to smaller planes and continue north over the Brooks Range and on to the upper Marsh Fork. The Arctic Refuge is a land of majestic mountains, rolling tundra, and the coastal plain. At first glance, the country appears quite barren from our plane. But a closer look reveals a lush, alpine landscape blanketed with wildflowers, intricate valleys, ancient rock formations, and cascading waterfalls. We’ll land on a small gravel bar along the river, and set up our first camp.
Days 2 - 14 : Rafting & hiking along the Marsh Fork of the Canning River
We paddle along the river, encountering several small rapids and breathtaking mountain and valley scenery along the entire route. Like all river trips, the peaceful sounds of the river will be a constant companion. Our schedule on the river is flexible: rafting days alternate with full layover days to hike, photograph wildflowers and amazing wildlife—including caribou, Dall sheep, musk ox, and wolves; fish for Arctic char and grayling (bring your fishing gear!), and explore one of the finest wilderness settings on earth.
Special note: This trip is longer that our regular trips to allow more layover days and the opportunity of float all the way to the Beaufort Sea (of course weather and water level permitted)
Day 15 : Return to Fairbanks and depart
We’ll break camp and await the arrival of the bush planes for our flight to Arctic Village, followed by a flight back to Fairbanks. We plan to arrive in Fairbanks by 6:00 p.m., but we highly recommend booking another night in Fairbanks as flight delays are possible. Guests often gather for a no-host dinner on this final evening.
DATES: Best time to go: June Departures: Jun 21 - 30, 2015 Special Hiker's trip
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.
Kevin McDermott, Alaska Discovery River Guide: "Thirsty" is an integral part of our Arctic rivers program. A laid back manner puts everyone at ease and he is a wealth of knowledge about the Artic rivers. Kevin has been guiding since he was 17 years old. Although he normally spends his winter months in Telluride Ski Area, he has climbed Mt Denali three times, and reached the summit in 2000.
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.