Last updated: August 13, 2022
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Arrive in Haines, AK in time for a 4 pm trip orientation.
Lodging at the Aspen Hotel in Haines this night is included. Meals this day are on your own.
Morning van departure up the Chilkat Valley, across the Canadian Border (you must have your passport and proof of vaccination. Plus possibly other requirements), through the spectacular high alpine of Chilkat Pass to the interior mountain valley of our raft put-in at Haines Junction, Yukon Territory. Once arrived, we’ll eat lunch and launch on a small tributary of the Alsek. If the upstream winds are particularly stiff, we’ll hike into our alternate put-in at Serpentine Creek.
As we move down the Alsek River, we’ll spend a couple days exploring the rivers, valleys, and mountains of Kluane National Park and Preserve. This is grizzly bear and moose country so we’ll have cameras and binoculars handy. The open, dry alpine environment with stunted trees and tundra-like terrain is ideal for wildlife viewing. The scenery is spectacular, and rich with stories about geologic, natural, and human history.
Enter the heart of glacier country, and move back in time to an Ice Age wilderness. The Alsek picks up speed and turns from clear blue to the color of chocolate milk as it converges with the silt-laden Kuskawulsh River. The river is splashy and fast and we begin to get a sense of the jaw-dropping immensity of the St. Elias Mountains towering 9,000 ft above the river.
Day 3 and 4
Just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, we raft through a series of splashy, fun rapids and then into iceberg-studded Lowell Lake. We’ll lay over at the lake. Weather permitting, we’ll take a sunset paddle on the lake to get a closer look at icebergs and other glacial features. In the morning, the intrepid will set off to hike Goat Herd Mountain, where we may see mountain goats, and get a bird’s eye view of the lake, Lowell Glacier, and the sublimity that surrounds.
Rapids Day! Roll that dry-bag carefully and check that your dry-suit seals are seated. Today we leave Lowell Lake and enter the top of the Alsek Canyon. We will paddle lots of fun, splashy, and stunningly beautiful rapids as the Alsek pours from the lake and rushes towards the sea culminating in our careful descent of a single Class IV rapid. It is an exciting day.
A final day on the river. The Alsek remains powerful, but the big rapids are behind us and we can refocus our attention on scanning the mountains for wildlife and taking pictures of the icy crags all around us. At the end of the day we make a final camp near the flank of the Tweedsmuir Glacier in preparation for a day-hike the following day.
Our last day on the Alsek is truly stunning. It is not an easy hike, but with some effort (the long days help) we can gain the high-ground above the river and eventually walk right onto the Tweedsmuir, a tongue of ice flowing from Canada’s highest peaks which (below our camp) nearly blocks the Alsek.
After a long day of adventure we will return to camp and the now familiar sound of the Alsek’s silt laden water rushing over rocks.
The last morning, we will break down camp, shuttle to the landing area across the river, and weather permitting, prepare for the 45-minute helicopter ride from the Alsek to the Haines Highway. A van shuttle will be waiting for us when we land. The drive back to Haines is less than an hour.
Time for a hot shower!