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.
Join Arctic Wild for an Alaska wilderness canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park. 10 days of canoeing, hiking and wildlife in Alaska’s biggest wilderness. This is canoe camping at its best with fun paddling, great wildlife encounters and endless hiking opportunities. There are few places in Alaska’s arctic where we so reliably see wildlife.
Want more? Add a couple of days at Kobuk Sand Dunes for even more adventure with Arctic Wild.
Far north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park, the Noatak River is an arctic gem. From its headwaters in the granite peaks around Mt. Igikpak, it flows west through glacier-capped peaks and rolling tundra for over 400 miles to the Chukchi Sea. Rich in wildlife and scenic beauty, it is internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site. There is no better place to experience the wilderness and wildlife of the Brooks Range than on the Noatak River.
We have several layover days to enjoy some of the best hiking in the arctic and to fish for Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Arctic Char and Lake Trout. Fall colors will begin to turn while we’re out there, and blueberries are fully ripe. Wildflowers like Grass of Parnassus and Arctic Poppies will grace the tundra with the last of the summer’s blooms.
The open country makes wildlife sightings a daily experience on the Noatak. We almost always see wolves, fox, moose and Dall sheep. Thousands upon thousands of caribou from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd migrate through the Noatak valley on their way to wintering grounds south of the Brooks Range. While paddling the Noatak we pass two salmon spawning streams. These are excellent and safe places to watch grizzly bears feeding. Birders will not be disappointed. Passerines and waterfowl wing through the Noatak every fall, stopping over in the many lush willow thickets and rich ponds of the broad valley.
In addition to the natural wonders of the area, the Noatak also has a rich human history and artifacts of ancient Eskimo life can be found near the deep lakes and across the tundra.
This is a fairly easy 70-mile canoe trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn out. The Noatak flows along smoothly on this stretch, with current enough to keep us moving, but if the wind blows opposite the current we will have to work to reach camp at each days end. Towards the end of the trip the river picks up speed and we get to ride the current to the take-out. Previous experience is not necessary to paddle canoes, instruction is provided by guides.
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 Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
It’s a long day. We fly north from Fairbanks over the Yukon River and Arctic Circle to the arctic village of Bettles. From Bettles we charter a plane into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. We’ll land on a sprawling lake near the river. If the mood strikes us, we will assemble the canoes and paddle for a bit. Or we might elect to explore our surroundings on foot and save the paddling for the next day.
We’ll canoe our way down the Noatak. On days when we travel, we will spend about five hours on the river paddling about 15 miles. Alternating days will be layover days when we will explore on foot from camp. We can climb peaks from every camp, but there is also lots of good walking along the river, or up pretty tundra creeks. There will be free time each and every day after camp is pitched. The long evening is yours to enjoy the golden arctic sunlight.
Clean up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll catch our return flight back up the Noatak, over a great many mountains and then on to Fairbanks. Remove rubber boots!
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
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.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 70s, averaging in the high 50’s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we can get lots of sunny weather this time of the year too. Mosquitoes should not be a problem on this trip, but a few flies could still be bothersome. Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net is always prudent.