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. The combination of horses and rafts gets us into the very heart of America’s largest National Park.
First we ride horses through the mountains and then raft the mighty Nabesna River: experience 11 days of horse-packing and river-rafting in Alaska with Arctic Wild
In the northeast corner of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a mostly unvisited wilderness of incomparable scale, where our horse-packer and his herd of sturdy horses live year round. The nearest neighbor is over 50 miles away, in Canada. We fly directly to this remarkable location from Fairbanks. Once the plane departs we have the country all to ourselves.
We will hit the ground running. After an introduction to the horses and methods of travel, we will pack the saddle-bags, saddle our steeds, and head deeper into the mountains. We will spend a couple nights on the trail, camping cowboy-style, with big meals and big fires and the sound of stock grazing nearby. (No yodeling please.)
Our route follows the gold rush era mail trail, along a flower-covered plateau which winds between two snow capped ranges. Along the way we can check out the 1914 mail cabin and some historic graves. We can also expect to see a good variety of wildlife. Grizzly bears in particular frequent the area, but moose and caribou are also likely to be seen grazing at the mountain bases while wild sheep cling to the cliffs. Halfway through the ride, the mountains close in on us. At several places, the scree is steep and loose and we may need to walk the horses down a pitch. Fishing in the small creeks may yield a grayling or three, but we will save our best lures for salmon on the coast.
When we near the end of our time on the trail, the sky broadens and we enter the broad valley of the Chisana. Several easy miles later, we enter the micro town of Chisana (population 5). Here we again meet our plane, and it shuttles us (one at a time) over still more majestic mountains to the fast and silty Nabesna River.
After inflating our rafts, waterproofing our gear, and reviewing safety procedures, we paddle down river with the swift current. We won’t go far this first 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 river-side. With four full days and 60 miles to travel there should be ample time to soak in the wild country.
Once out of the mountains the vistas grow large and the river moves out into Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. As we near the village of Northway, the current slows and we can drift along peacefully through the flats.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Happy Independence Day! Meet in Fairbanks at 4pm for a pre-trip meeting at the Arctic Wild World Headquarters.
Fly from Fairbanks up the Tanana River, almost to the Canadian border and into Wrangell St. Elias National Park (2-1/2 hours flight). Meet the horses and start our ride into the mountains.
Ride through the Wrangell Mountains, camping in the high meadows. Our route covers about 40 miles on an historic mail trail.
Quick flights from trail’s end to the river put-in. After a hike towards the glacier face, we will inflate the rafts and prepare for the next day’s rafting.
Rafting the Nabesna River. Paddle rafts keep everyone engaged as we navigate this spunky glacial river.
Paddle the slower water into the village of Northway and meet our van for a ride back to Fairbanks.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Water filter, base camp tent
Safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Horses, rafts, and big wilderness
Personal clothing and gear
Fishing license and fishing gear
Gratuity for guides
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See full equipment list.
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, but it could be cool and rainy so be prepared for anything. Temperatures will 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.