Canoes are the traditional mode of river travel in Alaska. The quiet and simplicity of Alaska river canoeing allows us to take in our surroundings slowly. Canoe trips offer the right speed, freedom and grace for navigating rivers like the Kokolik, and the legendary Yukon River. From Katmai National Park to the Gates of the Arctic and the Western Brooks Range, canoes are a great way to enjoy the wilderness.
What to Expect on an Alaska Canoe Trip
We have a fleet of 16 foot Norwegian made folding canoes and some inflatable canoes. Depending on the size of the group, there will be one or two Arctic Wild guides on each trip, though not in each boat.
On “travel days”, everyone works as a team to make and break camp and maneuver the canoes safely down the river. We plan all of our trips to maximize wildlife viewing and to provide ample time for leisurely picnic lunches, fishing and hiking. Our Alaska river canoe trips frequently include one, two, or three layover days, spent exploring, fishing, bird watching or just enjoying the solitude and silence.
Preparing for your Canoe Adventure
Our guides will provide canoeing instruction throughout the trip, so you do not need to be an expert paddler. Most of the paddling on our wilderness canoe trips is at a relaxed pace and no specific physical training is necessary, but being in decent shape physically will increase your overall enjoyment of the canoe trip. If you are interested in becoming a skilled canoeist prior to the trip, we are happy to arrange a course for you. Please contact us for details.
Alaska’s Arctic Coast is a storied and rich region and Kasegaluk Lagoon in the Chukchi Sea hosts an astounding wealth of wildlife during our brief summer. It is one of the largest and least disturbed coastal lagoons in the world. Seals, whales and waterfowl migrate to the lagoon each summer. Join our Arctic Coast Canoe trip to discover why.
An austere landscape at first glance, time spent on the Arctic Coast reveals it to be a region of stunning beauty and richness. Kasegaluk Lagoon is where the coastal tundra melts into the Chukchi Sea. Fed by five major rivers, the land and water mix in an infinite variety of lakes, bays and inlets. The diversity of wildlife and habitats is astounding.
Fresh water lagoons and river mouths wind far inland with ideal nesting habitat for both waterfowl and upland species. Kasegaluk Lagoon itself is brackish and in addition to pods of beluga whales, hosts ringed, spotted, and bearded seals along with the resident and migratory fish and birds. Numerous lakes and ponds provide habitat for nesting loons, swans, and more. Scores of waterfowl, including Black Brant, King, Common and Spectacled Eider, collect in the lagoons and river deltas to breed and molt. Tens of thousands of sea ducks migrate along this coast in July. The coastal tundra is thick with shorebirds and other nesting birds from the world over.
Between the lagoon and the Chukchi Sea are a series of barrier islands. These long gravelly spits are full of driftwood, whale bones, duck nests, and all manner of gifts from the sea. We will split our time among these many habitats, paddling far inland to experience the tundra for a few days, then heading seaward to beach comb on the barrier islands the next. In many years, the Western Arctic caribou herd stampedes to the coast to avoid insects further inland, and foxes search the driftwood for eider nests while the sun refuses to set over the northern ocean. It is a magical landscape, suddenly vibrant and teeming with life during the short summer.
This arctic canoe trip will explore this rich and interesting area for a week in July. This stretch of the coast is protected by barrier islands and the nearby sea ice, making the canoeing relatively safe and easy. The area is known for high-winds which might make preclude paddling some days, but with ample time and endless daylight, we can roam the tundra and coast watching wildlife, gaze for hours at the changing light, and learn about the resilient creatures that make their homes on this rugged coast. This is an ideal trip for birders, photographers or anyone wanting to see this enchanting area.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue.
Fly from Kotzebue north into one of the most remote and untraveled parts of Alaska. On the flight, we cross the Brooks Range and may see thousands upon thousands of caribou migrating west.
The days and nights are ours to explore and marvel at this unique destination. We will plan to paddle about 40 miles of lagoons bays and coastal rivers. With plenty of time to cover the distance, we will travel when conditions are favorable and explore on foot when the wind picks-up. When not paddling we can hike in search of wildlife and birds, explore the old village sites, beach comb for whale and walrus bones, maybe observe arctic foxes at their dens, photograph sea ducks, or just sit by a driftwood fire and enjoy the sight of the sea and sky. No matter how we spend our time, each day will be full of adventure and surprises.
On our last day we await our pilot and the spectacular flight back south across the tundra. Weather permitting, we will be back to Kotzebue in time for a hot shower and a late dinner.
Round-trip airfare from Kotzebue
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See full equipment list.
Expect a variety of weather. July tends to be mild by arctic standards, but cold fog and winds are common along the coast. Expect temperatures to range from in the 60’s down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs could be an issue on hikes inland so DEET and a head net are recommended.
50 years below Zero, Brown; Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez; Caribou & the Barren-Lands, George Calef; Arctic Wings, Mountaineers; Beautiful images and information about the geology of the Arctic Coast at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/shorezone/arcticlimpressions.pdf. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.