Sheenjek River Canoe

Sheenjek River Canoe


July 05, 2025 - July 11, 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge





July 05, 2025 - July 11, 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



Starting among some of the most beautiful peaks of the Brooks Range, the Sheenjek flows from tundra south into the boreal forest. Our week on the river brings mountain hiking, river canoeing, and opportunities to spot wildlife around every bend. Join us on a classic Arctic Refuge canoe trip.


Home to Gwich’in people for time immemorial, the Sheenjek River, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was made famous by Olaus and Mardy Murie with their 1956 expedition to census caribou in the region. Inspired by the Sheenjek, they advocated for the formation of the Arctic Refuge which we enjoy today. We think the Sheenjek will inspire you too.

Starting in the limestone peaks of the Eastern Brooks Range the Sheenjek’s clear waters flow through deep gravel beds of ancient fossils and beneath gray and purple mountains. The upper river is dry and spare with enormous vistas and excellent hiking. As the river flows south and descends, the banks grow lush (by arctic standards) with every hue of green you can imagine, and before long the river enters the northernmost boreal forest, an open parkland of spruce dotted with lakes. Further south the Sheenjek is surrounded by the dark green of large trees and an ecology similar to the interior of Alaska. Each area has its charms and distinct wildlife.

Our trip on the Sheenjek focuses on the area of transition between tundra and forest, home to an astonishing mix of creatures. We may see tundra species like caribou, grizzly bears, arctic ground squirrel, and ptarmigan. Later in the trip we may see animals typical of the boreal forest such as beaver, moose, grouse, and lynx.

Everywhere we look we will find beauty. Our Sheenjek river canoe trip travels through the wilderness portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Sheenjek River is also a National Wild and Scenic River and truly an icon of the Refuge.

This exploration of the area is a great introduction to wilderness canoeing and our focus is on enjoying the land rather than covering miles. During the week we will paddle the first 30 miles of the Sheenjek from the headwaters to Lobo Lake with lots of time to hike, explore, fish and relish in the solitude. We will plan a few layover days, and on our traveling days, you will have free time enough for personal pursuits. There are mountains, hills, and bluffs to climb, arctic grayling to cast for, soaring white spruce forests to meander through, and graceful river bars made up of colorful Brooks Range rocks and fossils to explore.

The Sheenjek River starts slow as it works its way through the river gravels. then moves into a region of tundra ponds and clear lakes with spruces on the fringes where the river runs in a single channel. As we move downstream, gaining skills as canoeists, the current picks up a little speed and we may dodge overhanging trees and cut-banks. Canoe experience is recommended, but the upper Sheenjek is also a good place to learn to paddle.

Last updated: February 19, 2024


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

July 4

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

July 5

Leaving Fairbanks we fly 250 miles, over the Yukon River, to Arctic Village. We then catch a smaller plane for a spectacular flight to the Sheenjek. We set up camp and enjoy our first night in the wilderness.

July 6 - 10

We like to spend our first full day in the wilderness hiking the tundra and climbing towards the peaks. The upper valley is stunning. Hikes can be as short or as long as you desire. With endless wilderness all around there are few limits to the adventures we can have.

When we are ready to head downriver we will assemble the folding canoes, refresh our paddling skills, discuss river safety, and join the Sheenjek on its way south towards the Yukon River. An average paddling day involves 4 or 5 hours in the canoes plus a leisurely picnic and maybe a stroll to a bluff or lake near the river.

We will make time for side trips to nearby lakes and can try and climb numerous peaks and hills near the river on layover days or in the evenings after a day on the water.


July 11

Weather permitting, we will hear our plane mid-morning and then make our way back towards “civilization.”  Once we get cleaned up we can being exaggerating about the trip!

You run a first-class operation, and I just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the 10 day rafting trip (what a place!), and I particularly wanted to to let you know that the guides did an outstanding and exemplary job. Not only were they both excessively competent in all the skills necessary to see us safely down the river, and not only did they provide every conceivable creature comfort (I mean, blueberry pancakes in the wilderness? What more could a man want!), but they proved to be the most pleasant and personable of companions, with seemingly inexhaustible reserves of patience, good humor, and zest.

- Chris, Maryland, USA



Round-trip airfare from 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, See full equipment list.

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)


Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic, from freezing to baking hot. Early July tends to have the warmest and most stable weather of the summer and we expect mostly sunny days with mild temperatures. But being above the Arctic Circle, you should bring plenty of warm clothes and quality rain-gear to be ready for the mid-summer blizzard. There will be some bugs (mosquitos) on this trip so pack your DEET and head-net too.

You can’t trust the forecast, but climate information for Arctic Village will give you a sense of typical weather on the Sheenjek.


Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Alaska Geographic

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

Midnight Wilderness by Debbie Miller

More Alaska reading is available at our bookstore

"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