Alaska rafting trips in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge allow you to take in great sweeps of the Alaska wilderness with relative ease. From the Kongakut River to the Charley River, Arctic Wild has the perfect Alaska rafting trip for you.
What to Expect from Our Rafting Trips
On our Brooks Range rafting trips we generally use 12 foot-long paddle-rafts. Each raft includes an Arctic Wild guide and either two or three paddlers. We plan our Alaska rafting trips for maximum wildlife viewing and scenery.
Generally our river trips are better suited for those seeking a wilderness experience rather than an adrenaline rush. If you are looking for an Alaska whitewater rafting trip,with Class II or Class III rapids, consider the Hulahula, or the Charley River trips.
On “travel days”, everyone works as a team to load and unload the rafts and maneuver safely down the river. Paddle-rafts allow every passenger to be actively involved in navigating and rafting the river. Some days may have challenging whitewater rafting but there is always ample time allowed for leisurely picnic lunches and exploration. Our Alaska rafting trips frequently include one, two, or three layover days, spent hiking, relaxing, or both.
How to Prepare for Alaska Rafting
No experience or training is necessary to enjoy an Alaska rafting trip, though being in decent shape physically will increase your enjoyment of the experience. Whether preparing for a float down the Kongakut River or one of our whitewater rafting adventures, we will provide you with advice on personal equipment, reading lists or anything else you need to make your Alaska adventure safe and fun.
The Kongakut River is famous for dramatic mountain scenery, fun wilderness rafting and frequent wildlife encounters. We will paddle the Kongakut this August as summer gives way to fall and the river is teeming with fish. Autumn brings glorious yellow and crimson to the tundra and brilliant displays of the Aurora overhead. The hiking from the river is varied and nearly endless and the fishing for both char and grayling is exceptional.
The Kongakut River winds through a breathtakingly gorgeous valley. August is fall-time at 70 degrees north latitude and the tundra is crimson and gold. Peaks are receiving snow which is likely to stick until the following May or June. Great flocks of Snow Geese may be amassing on the Coastal Plain and everything is preparing for winter. From each night’s camp we can hike off to explore our surroundings – quiet cottonwood glades, small waterfalls, wildflower-rich willow forests and jutting outcrops above the river.
Wildlife is abundant on the Kongakut River in August. The big caribou migrations are in June, but even at the end of August there are still small bands of bull caribou roaming the Kongakut valley and ridges. In the upper reaches there are sure to be moose heading to their wintering grounds in the mountains. Dall sheep abound and can sometimes be seen right down by the river. Bears should be fattening up on berries and wolves, though hard to see, are hunting throughout the area. The land is full of wildlife, the sky streaked with birds and the river itself boasts one of the most reliable runs of Arctic Char (Dolly Varden) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Some pools erupt with red and white flashes of breeding char when the rafts go by. They are fun and easy to catch if you are so inclined, and very delicious.
The Kongakut is a fast moving river with multiple braided channels. The river is steady Class II, with a short (three-mile) canyon section with fun, Class III rapids. No previous river experience is necessary for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling under the guidance of an experienced raft captain.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Pre-trip meeting with your guide in Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly 200 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabascan settlement of Arctic Village. From there, we board an even smaller plane and carry on through the Brooks Range to a river bar alongside the Kongakut River. Tonight, take a hike, and settle into your surroundings.
Once we inflate the rafts and give a safety briefing we will launch in to the swift cold water.
On paddling days we spend about 5 hours on the water. This will allow lots of time for exploration, photography and a delicious picnic lunch. We run fun Class III rapids on several different days, and this entire stretch of river is exciting to paddle.
On each of the three layover days, we have choices of easy or harder, longer, higher climbs. Just before the last day or the trip, we will be able to hike to a sweeping view of the arctic coast and see the Arctic Ocean stretching off to the curved horizon. The fishing is great from every single place we camp.
Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us towards Fairbanks in time for a late dinner and warm shower.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, per our equipment list
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. It could be warm, but it is best to prepare for autumn weather. Temperatures will range from the 20s to 60s. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get plenty of sunny pleasant weather this time of the year too. Mosquito season should be over.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Geographic; Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer; Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez; Midnight Wilderness, Debbie Miller; Fifty Years Below Zero, Charles Brown.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Alaska Geographic; Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer; Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez; Fifty Years Below Zero by Charles Brown; Midnight Wilderness by Debbie Miller. More Alaska reading is available at our bookstore.