A four-seater plane will land you, your trip mates and guide(s) on a gravel landing strip in the upper Charley River, a remote Wild and Scenic River in the pristine Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The National Park Service created this park because of its rich human history and its stunning natural beauty. This trip is your chance to experience this little-known gem.
The Charley River flows first through an open valley where far away mountain peaks are over 6,000 feet high. The river valley then narrows and the river has cut its way through the bedrock, flowing swiftly past bluffs and cliffs. We will enjoy navigating through boulder strewn rapids as the river plummets towards the Yukon Valley. After leaving the mountains, the current slows and we will have more time to stare through the crystal clear water to the colorful pebbles below and to study the moss-filled woods in hopes of seeing wildlife. After enjoying this Wild and Scenic River for over 100 miles we will paddle out to the mighty Yukon River.
The adventure is far from over when we reach the Yukon River. Along the Yukon we will see tall bluffs with nesting raptors, car-sized chunks of ice left stranded on the sandbars, historic cabins, and wildlife such as grizzly bears, lynx, and moose. The Yukon is huge even here in its upper reaches, both its size and speed are impressive.
August is a magical time this far north. Summer’s peak is barely past and the forests are deep green. Animals are in prime condition. We expect some rain this time of year and in fact hope for water to make the paddling easier and more fun. Temperatures are usually mild.
The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has one of North America’s highest densities of nesting Peregrine Falcons. You may also see caribou, moose, wolves, black and grizzly bears and a wide variety of waterfowl and songbirds (including Northern Shrikes and Rusty Blackbirds). This is a moderately difficult river trip, with stretches of Class II and III rapids and steady paddling, in total 150 miles. No experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain.
Last updated: December 22, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet with your guide at 4 pm for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly into a gravel landing strip in the headwaters of the Charley River. Spend the afternoon hiking through the alpine tundra and settling into the country.
Spend the morning inflating our rafts and preparing for the river. After a river safety briefing we will set out on the clear and beautiful Charley River.
Paddle down the Charley, navigating rapids and enjoying the country. Though we have many miles to cover, we will make time for one non-travel day to explore on foot and enjoy the quiet and solitude of this spectacular area.
Broad and strong, the Yukon flows between forested banks and rocky bluffs. As the river nears the village of Circle the valley broadens to the horizon and our world becomes one of just sky, water and gravel. Once we arrive by raft to the Yukon River village of Circle, pack our gear, and climb in a van for the four hour drive to Fairbanks. Time for a hot shower!
Michael listened to our descriptions of what we wanted in a trip and investigated the possibility of making that sort of trip happen. Unlike some other guide services, he was attuned to what we were saying and did not outright say he could not accommodate us because Arctic Wild only provided trips like X, Y, or Z. In my opinion, the major difference between Arctic Wild and the 4 other guide services I talked to was that Michael tried to design a trip meeting our trip objectives and wishes.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Temperatures vary from the 80’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. Expect a few mosquitoes and biting flies in the woods but not on the river bars. Bugs shouldn’t be a problem this time of year but a bottle of DEET is prudent
Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer
People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes
Caribou and the Barren Lands by George Calef
Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
Alaska Wilderness by Robert Marshall
Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans
Arctic Wild by Lois Crisler
More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.