For the past several years, thousands of caribou have spent the first weeks of July at the Canning River delta. This years’ Canning River trip, aims to combine a world-class wilderness trip with a once in a lifetime wildlife spectacle. The trip will start in the majestic Brooks Range and paddle north to the Arctic Coast. With any luck, caribou and other wildlife should be around every bend in the river.
The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many claim it is the most beautiful. The scenery is varied and enchanting. The river flows for over 130 miles through mountains and foothills, through the Coastal Plain, and finally to the Arctic Coast.
Its clear water begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged and severely beautiful. As the Canning flows seaward, it bounds the west end of three sub ranges of the Brooks Range, the prosaically named “Third Range,” the “Shublik Mountains”, and the “Sadlerochit Mountains”.
Early July is a great time to paddle the Canning River. Days will be long and the weather likely warm (for the arctic) leaving us to watch the varied wildlife in peace. We should see grizzly bears, wolves, arctic and red fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, musk oxen, wolverines, Golden Eagles and an abundance of waterfowl. Fishing for Arctic Grayling and Arctic Char can be good if the water levels are not too high. As we get towards the coast we can expect the temperatures to drop and the numbers of caribou to increase. Last July over 60,000 caribou aggregated on the Canning River delta for nearly a week.
The Arctic Coast is a rich and storied area. The Canning River delta is host to thousands of breeding birds each summer and there are numerous ancient and contemporary Eskimo sites along the coast. If conditions are right we can even take a walk on the sea ice.
We’ll paddle about 90 miles of the Canning. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We will have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. There is no whitewater on the stretch we will be paddling, but there is often significant ice to avoid and the paddling is always engaging. As we approach the coast the weather will cool significantly and we may have to paddle against the wind.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly from Fairbanks north, over the Yukon River and then into the spectacular Philip Smith Mountains, to our put-in on on the Canning River. We will set up camp and explore the nearly limitless wilderness.
On paddling days we will spend about five hours on the water, stopping for short walks and a delicious lunch en route. There will be three or four “layover days” where we will leave camp set up and will explore the area on foot. Guides will lead informal natural history hikes on moving days and on the layover days. The hiking is fantastic the entire length of the river and wildlife can be found at any time.
Weather permitting, our pilot will arrive and fly us back across the Brooks Range to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner and a shower.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Expect a variety of weather. July tends to be mild by arctic standards. Expect temperatures to range from in the 70’s down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs could be an issue in the mountains and foothills so DEET and a head-net are highly recommended. Bring an extra warm layer for the coast.