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.
This is the perfect Katmai Canoe Trip. Katmai National Park is among the richest ecosystems on earth. Millions of salmon swim inland to feed the world’s largest bears and Alaska’s largest lakes sprawl between volcanic peaks.
Katmai Park is on the Alaska Peninsula, a long, volcano-studded finger pointing to a 2,000-mile archipelago arcing across the north Pacific to Siberia. Constant tectonic activity, volcanism, and retreating glaciers have left behind jagged peaks, rounded hills, and deep blue lakes. We’ll paddle along these glacial lakes and on the Savonoski River, roughly 80 miles, on our Katmai Canoe trip. Fifty of our miles will be on lakes; thirty miles on rivers. Camping on the beaches, fishing the creeks and watching bears in the autumn light, we enjoy the best of Katmai’s interior on this wilderness canoe trip.
Autumn on the Alaska Peninsula means cool weather, ripening blueberries, bright fall colors, and a chance to see the Aurora Borealis. Fall also means fattening-up time for the huge brown bears that live in Katmai National Park. We may see moose, black bears, wolves, and foxes in Katmai. We will certainly see great big brown bears, passing their time eating salmon. Though they treat humans as something to walk around, they are themselves staggeringly powerful creatures. We will have close, but safe, encounters with them. There are unparalleled opportunities for observing and photographing bears at play, while feeding, and just being bears. We will also see bald eagles and a variety of waterfowl. Fishing for rainbow trout, and pike is excellent throughout the trip and especially in the Grovenor River. In a few locations we can hike into the alpine where we enjoy excellent hiking and blueberry picking as we cast our eyes over the vast, lake-bejeweled landscape.
This trip is a moderately difficult route. Experience with canoe travel is recommended. The lake paddling is not difficult, but because the lakes are susceptible to big winds, we will paddle in light chop or swells some days. We will paddle close to shore, and while we need not undertake open water crossings, there is one such crossing we can elect to do, if conditions permit. The river paddling is all Class I with swift, braided channels.
After a week in the remote backcountry of Katmai National Park we spend the final night and day of the trip at world-famous Brooks Falls. We won’t have the area entirely to ourselves but humans are still likely outnumbered by bruins.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Anchorage.
This is a long day. We fly from Anchorage to King Salmon. After a visit to the excellent visitor center we board a float plane and fly to Colville Lake. Once the plane is unloaded we will assemble the canoes and paddle several miles to make a nice, secluded camp on a pebbly beach. We’ll spend the rest of the evening settling into our surroundings.
We have 80 miles to go and time to enjoy it. We’ll be paddling up to six hours a day, stopping several times to stretch, snack, hike, and explore. We’ll paddle across Colville Lake and into Grosvenor Lake, a long finger of a lake curving beneath tall mountains, a hidden jewel with secret creeks full of salmon. Snow capped volcanoes loom in the distance. At the very tip of the lake, we will descend a creek that empties into the Savonoski River. From here, we’re paddling swift water in a vast open plain of river gravels. The views are stunning as we enter Naknek Lake, gray with glacial silt and dotted with floating rocks (pumice). We will spend time fishing the lakes and rivers, swapping stories around beach fires, and watching bears feed, swim and interact with each other.
Paddle the last few miles to Brooks Camp and unload our gear. We spend our last night of the trip in Brooks Camp, the Katmai National Park campground and will have the afternoon to watch bears from the platforms overlooking the world famous Brooks Falls.
After a last walk up to Brooks Falls, we meet our plane and depart Brooks Camp. We fly back to King Salmon, and then catch a jet back to Anchorage arriving late in the evening. Change socks!
Transportation beyond Anchorage, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Non-camp lodging, non-camp meals, 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.
Temperatures vary from the 60’s to the low 40’s. Rain is almost assured. We should be well past the peak of bugs, but some flies may persist. For this reason, you should pack a headnet and DEET bug repellent.