Last updated: July 24, 2023
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide at Arctic Wild at 9 am for a half-day of packrafting on a local creek. We will cover a variety of safety topics and help you hone your paddling skills, returning to Arctic Wild for a pre-trip meeting in the afternoon where we can check gear and help you get ready for our departure the following morning. Meals and lodging on your own.
Fly 350 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabaskan village of Arctic Village. In Arctic Village we will meet our pilot for the beautiful flight over the Continental Divide past countless peaks and glaciers into the Sadlerochit Mountains. After hiking to a suitable campsite, we will make camp, eat dinner and then take a hike under the midnight sun.
Packs are heavy and the scenery is marvelous. We walk up a gravely creek bed which eventually peters out into a low-broad tussock pass following caribou trails towards the river.
Day 4 and 5
Before launching into the river, your guide will remind you of lessons learned in Fairbanks about the art of packrafting and river safety. Once you are feeling confident and gear is secured inside the boats and to the deck of the packrafts, you begin your descent towards the Arctic Ocean.
The river is small, fast, and rocky and you may need to get out occasionally to nudge your boat between rocks or over shallows. Depending on water levels there may be short sections with too many rocks to safely navigate. But with a packraft it is not too difficult to pick-up your gear and simply walk around the hazard.
The scenery alone is worth the effort.
Day 5 and 6
As the river exits the mountains the sky broadens and the river braids into multiple channels. Once you get the knack of following your guide through the deepest water, you will make good time and can scan the banks for bear, wolf, and caribou.
Traveling towards the coast the wildlife changes along with the scenery. Waterfowl collect on the gravel bars and arctic fox can be found denning on the sandy banks. To the south, the Brooks Range dominates the skyline.
Approaching the coast, the current slows and you enter one of the most wildlife rich portions of the Arctic Refuge. The river delta is a birder’s paradise. After negotiating the delta, we paddle across the coastal lagoon to a barrier island in the Arctic Ocean. Most years there is sea ice still attached to the shore and we have an endless evening to explore this austere land of sky and ice. The sun won’t even come close to setting. Happy Solstice!
Pack-up and begin listening for our airplane. When it arrives (weather permitting) we reluctantly load our gear and ourselves for the flight back through Arctic Village and on to Fairbanks, arriving in time for a late dinner. A shower is in order.