Demarcation Bay Base Camp

Demarcation Bay Base Camp


July 15, 2024 - July 20, 2024


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge





July 15, 2024 - July 20, 2024


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



Alaska’s arctic coast is a storied region. Home to Inupiat Eskimos for thousands of years, it has attracted whalers, mineral seekers, and adventurers, all chasing their fortunes. It is a region of stunning beauty and richness. Seals haul out on the arctic pack ice, and thousands of waterfowl collect in the lagoons and river deltas to rear their young. Tens of thousands of sea ducks migrate along this coast in summer. Caribou stampede to the coast to avoid insect pests further inland. Long, gravel barrier islands are littered with sun-bleached driftwood – among it, the remains of those who have come before. It is an austere landscape, suddenly vibrant and teeming with life during the short summer.


At the edge of the continent where the tundra merges with the cold Arctic Ocean, tucked up against the border with Canada lies Demarcation Bay, an ideal place to camp and explore the Arctic Coast. From our comfortable camp on the tundra we can explore inland on foot and the ocean by canoe, seeking wildlife and marveling at the history of the region.

To the south looms the Brooks Range, rising thousands of feet just miles from the coast. To the north Demarcation Bay, the barrier islands, and the vast frozen ocean. To the east is the Canadian border, Herschel Island, and over the horizon the Mackenzie River. To the west is the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, critical habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd. We will place our weather worthy camp in the midst of this grandeur, perfectly positioned to explore the many wonders.

The mountains proper are beyond where we can realistically hike in a day (even with 24 hours of daylight), but hiking inland we can climb several hills for expansive views of the the coastal plain. Both arctic and red fox have denned in the area recently and bands of caribou frequent the river mouths and beaches. Wildflowers ought to be near peak bloom on the tundra and some areas are so fragrant that you can smell the lupine and paintbrush from 1/2 a mile away. On the right year it is truly a sea of flowers.

We will bring canoes with us so that we can explore the bay, which is protected by barrier islands, locally known as reefs. Icy Reef, a few miles from our camp, offers beachcombing beyond compare. Amongst the massive driftwood logs from the Mackenzie River we often find whale bones, fossilized corrals, glass fishing floats, and signs of shipwreck. Amongst these treasures are eider nests (tread carefully) and polar bear tracks (heads-up!). A day on the beach searching for curiosities and watching the sea ice drift in the current is a day well spent.

Wildlife is wild and unpredictable. But we do expect a diversity of creatures to show themselves during the trip. Numerous lakes and ponds host nesting loons, swans and other waterfowl. The coastal tundra is thick with shorebirds and other nesting birds from the world over. And sea-ducks by the thousands usually migrate west along the coast in July.

Many years, caribou herds move through this area by the thousands or tens of thousands in early July. If luck is with us, we may get to sit in camp while caribou walk down the beach. Even if we don’t see great masses of animals, there likely will be foxes denning, bears wandering, or even, as happened one year, a wolverine hunting voles on the tundra.

The trip is sure to delight the naturalist in you, but the region has a rich human history too. There are old fishing camps along the shore, a crumbling trading post on the bay, and even a shipwrecked freighter. The long history of the Inupiat and Inuvialuit and the short history of the whaling era are etched into the land.

With 24 hours of daylight time takes on a new dimension. “Nights” often have the best light, calm winds, and the most wildlife. Hikes at 2 am are common on a trip like this. Sunscreen at midnight is recommended. The timeless nature of the Arctic Coast is one of the things that defines the trip and can be the most memorable aspect.

Last updated: January 19, 2023


What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

July 14

Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at 4 pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.

July 15

Fly from Fairbanks, over the mighty Yukon River, across the Arctic Circle, to the Gwich’in community of Arctic Village. Then catch a smaller plane to the Arctic Coast. On the flight in we cross the Brooks Range and if very lucky may see caribou migrating towards the coast.

July 16 - 19

The days and nights are yours to explore and marvel at this unique destination. We will explore in a different direction each day. When the weather is favorable we can canoe on the bay to explore the reef and ice, beach comb for whale bones (which we leave on the beach), or photograph the enormous flocks of migrating sea ducks.

When not paddling we can hike inland in search of wildlife and birds, observe arctic foxes at their dens, or just sit by the driftwood fire and enjoy the sight of sea and sky. No matter how we spend our time, each day will be full of adventure and surprises.

July 20

A final climb of the hill behind camp, a final scan with the binoculars for wildlife, then we pack-up camp and start listening for the plane. It may be the first air traffic we’ve heard all week. Then (weather permitting) we fly to Fairbanks, re-crossing the Brooks Range, the Arctic Circle, and the Yukon River. Weather permitting, we will be back to Fairbanks in time for a hot shower and a late dinner.

I genuinely feel, having traveled in South America, Australia, and Africa to remote villages and lodges, huts etc. that Alaska was the most foreign I have ever felt. And I am glad to have experienced it.
One of my biggest impressions is that I am so so very glad we had Arctic Wild as our outfitters. Michael Wald and his team were terrific and well prepared. I can’t say enough about the attention to detail and the experience of them and especially our guide Nancy Pfeiffer. I talked with other guides and with other groups. After each conversation, (trust me, they were lengthy chats as we were on a gravel runway sitting on our packs…) I thought how lucky we were to be with Nancy and Arctic Wild.


- Linda, Washington, USA



Transportation beyond Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets

Safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available from Arctic Wild


Non-camp Lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our equipment list

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)


Expect a variety of weather, none of it very warm. 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. Bugs could be an issue, especially on hikes inland so DEET and a head-net are highly recommended. Climate data for the area is available here.


Whales, Ice, and Men by John Bockstoce

A Thousand Trails Home by Seth Kantner

Naturalists Guide to the Arctic by E.C. Pielou

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River