The Wrangell Mountains are part of the largest protected wilderness on earth. Glacier-carved peaks spawn raging rivers and dramatic peaks tower over lush green bottomlands. This rugged country keeps most people out, but your world-class guides let you enjoy this remote location in style. Come paddle with us into the very heart of America’s largest National Park for a week of wildlife and adventure.
In the northeast corner of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a mostly unvisited wilderness of incomparable scale, where rivers pour from glaciers and flowers bloom on the tundra.
The start of our river trip is literally the start of the river. We can walk to the glacier’s face and see the river emerge from under hundreds of feet of ice. The fluctuating current creates hundreds of sandbars and river channels in an infinite variety of ice, water and gravel and the river assumes every mood imaginable from calm pools with floating ice to raging torrents of water and silt. It is a dynamic and impressive place. With this dramatic landscape in our “front yard”, we’ll camp beneath the towering mountains and scan the river flats for wildlife.
After a night by the river and a hearty breakfast we’ll inflate our rafts, waterproof our gear, and review safety procedures. Then we paddle down river with the swift current. We won’t go far this first paddling day and we expect to have time in the afternoon to explore along the river or deeper into the mountains.
The Nabesna features swift current, splashy waves and dramatic scenery. We will be busy steering the boats (everyone paddles) and avoiding the big rocks, but not too busy to stop when we see wildlife. There should be sheep on the cliffs, moose in the willows, and bears looking for fish. With 4 days on the river and 70 miles to travel there should be ample time to soak in the wild country. We’ll camp on the broad wildflower covered sand bars and hike into the woods. We can fish the clear side-creeks and enjoy a roaring driftwood fire each evening. The solitude and scenery can’t be beat.
Once out of the mountains, the vistas grow large and the river moves out into Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. The forests become more complex and begin to crowd the river. Nearby lakes host waterfowl and a variety of boreal wildlife. As we near the village of Northway, where our trip end, the current slows and we can drift along peacefully through the flats.
Last updated: January 23, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet in Fairbanks at 4pm for a pre-trip meeting at the Arctic Wild World Headquarters.
We depart Fairbanks early and drive up the Alaska Highway, almost to the Canadian border at the village of Tok. Here we board a small plane for the spectacular flight into Wrangell St. Elias National Park (2-1/2 hour flight). We land near the glacier and set-up camp.
Rafting the Nabesna River. Paddle rafts keep everyone engaged as we navigate this spunky glacial river.Inflate the rafts and prepare for a day on the river. Paddling northward we leave the glacier behind and enter a world of water and stone. Once out of the mountains the forests grow rich and thick, waterfowl fill the air and the river relaxes it’s pace.
Paddle the remaining miles into the village of Northway and meet our van for a ride back to Fairbanks.
We had a guide whose judgement and advice I trusted unconditionally. I am sure we had the great fortune to benefit from her many years of guiding, especially regarding the food she selected to bring. I found it incredible that the meals never tasted like they were selected for camping but also it always seemed to be very efficient, starting from the good coffee in the morning, to lunches that included gourmet cheeses, to the dinners she prepared that were better than those in many restaurants.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks
Outstanding guide service
Wholesome and delicious food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Repair and safety equipment
All boating gear, including boats and paddles
The use of one life jacket and one medium-sized dry-bag per person
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Alaska. July is usually mild and warm, and the Northeastern Wrangells are one of the driest parts of the state. That said, it could be cool and rainy so be prepared for anything. Temperatures could range from the 20s to 80s. Snow is possible any day of the year, but we get lots of sunny weather this time of the year. Mosquitoes should not be an issue but bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent just in case.