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.
The Yukon River is Alaska’s largest river; a landscape of huge proportions. Canoeing the Yukon is a classic Alaska wilderness experience, full of striking scenery and rich with history. A week on the river is a timeless experience suitable for novice paddlers and seasoned explorers alike.
This year we have a special guest who lived on the Yukon in the 70’s and who can bring the history of the river alive. This trip is a perfect combination of wilderness and cultural history; a journey through time and a timeless journey.
The Yukon River starts small and gains size and speed in Canada’s thinly populated Yukon Territory. The river crosses the U.S. border just upriver from the village of Eagle, and this is where our canoe trip will begin. From Eagle, the Yukon flows another 1,400 miles through the heart of Alaska to the Bering Sea. At its mouth the river is nearly a mile wide!
The section of river that we will paddle from Eagle to Circle City is one of the most scenic stretches. Our route takes us through Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve. Gravel bars stretch around long sinuous bends dotted by roots and trunks of trees bleached by the hot summer sun. Beyond the gravel and sand are young willows and cottonwoods which frame the river in vibrant green. Towering above the brush are the trees of the boreal forest, hosting stands of paper birch whose white trunks peel in papery sheets. Other areas support dark forests of spruce, long brown columns in a sea of green moss. The boreal forest is also home to comically small black spruce all twisted and bent, seeming to barely survive in the frozen soil.
Along much of the river in this section are steep and rocky bluffs. Some of them are several hundred feet tall. These spectacular bluffs support an ecology all their own and provide some of the best nesting habitat for Peregrine Falcons in Alaska. This is lean country, but king and chum salmon will be working their way upriver towards their spawning grounds in Canada. These fish will draw bears and others to the river for this seasonal feast. Moose are a common sight in the ponds and sloughs near the river.
In addition to the rich natural history, the river has an interesting human history. Gwich’in Athabascan Indians have hunted and fished this stretch of river for centuries. Starting in the late 1800’s trappers and then prospectors inhabited nearly every valley. Cabins, old mines, fish wheels and other relics of the area’s heyday can be found along the river and in the woods.
This year we have invited Dave Evans, who lived on the river during the 70’s, trapping in winter and fishing in summer to maintain his dog team. Dave knows this stretch of the river like few people and will share his knowledge of the land and its history with us. This is a unique opportunity to learn about a unique lifestyle from a man who called the Yukon River home. Dave knows where many of the old cabins are along the river and we can poke around the old homesites, searching for long lost garden beds, trapping caches and long rotten boats. Dave is likely to remember when the gardens were full of potatoes and the cabins were new, and his stories are sure to add depth and interest to our journey. We will also have time to visit with a few of the modern homesteaders still making a life from the Yukon’s shores and learn more about how life changes, and doesn’t change in the Arctic.
The pace of this trip will be leisurely. The camping along the Yukon is world class for scenery and comfort. Some of our paddling days may be long, but there will always be time to pull over and investigate sights along the way. Weather in the interior this time of year tends to be sunny and warm though we will be prepared for anything. Canoeing experience is not necessary. This trip is an ideal choice for the adventurous family.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide at a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.
Drive northeast from Fairbanks to the riverside village of Eagle, Alaska (population 230). It is a long but scenic drive and our welcome into the village is worth it. We spend the night at an historic Inn and take a tour of the Gold Rush town. (Lodging Included)
Before we launch on the river we will tour the town of Eagle and pay a visit to the Eagle Historical Society. Then, after carrying our gear down to the river and assembling the boats, we will head down river, enjoying the view of Eagle Bluff and will work on refining our paddling skills. Once we are comfortable on the river, we can stop-in at fish camps and homesteads to learn about life along the river.
Our time is ours to do what we please. We can start our day by climbing the bluff behind camp to smell the sweet sage and watch hawks circle above the river. Or we can head out early and watch the glassy river slip beneath the canoe. At lunch we can follow a small creek back into the woods where we find an old cabin with a garden still producing rhubarb in the wilderness. We will travel most days and will be on the water for five to six hours each day. This schedule allows plenty of time for exploring from camp or making side trips during a leisurely lunch break. We will pass many clear water side streams that offer opportunities to fish. As we near our final destination, the river bluffs disappear and we enter an area called the Yukon Flats, a fantastically productive area for waterfowl. Here, as the river slows, the sky is broad and colorful.
We leave the main river for a smaller, willow-lined side channel. After a few miles we see the log buildings of Circle, Alaska. After disassembling our canoes and packing our gear we will load into our van for a four-hour scenic drive back to Fairbanks.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, One night lodging in Eagle, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging (except for 7/14 in Eagle), 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 dramatically in the Far North. Temperatures will range from 90 to 40. We will get some good hot weather and some windy cool weather, but generally it should be warm (by Alaska standards) This is mosquito season, and they will be a factor we plan to mollify by choosing open, breezy camps. Bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle DEET repellent for forays into the woods.