Arctic Refuge Packraft (Egaksrak)

GUIDED ALASKA Packraft

Arctic Refuge Packraft (Egaksrak)

DATES

June 20, 2024 - June 27, 2024

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

TRIP COST

$7,100

calendar

DATES

June 20, 2024 - June 27, 2024
region

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
price

TRIP COST

$7,100

Paddle your own packraft to the Arctic Coast and stand on the sea ice! Join us this summer solstice for this unique Mountains to the Sea packrafting adventure.

Most of our packrafting trips include several days of backpacking. Not this one. Instead, you have the choice to join our Caribou Migration Backpack June 14 – 20, 2024 to enjoy both trips for a source to sea adventure. Or just paddle to the coast without carrying a heavy pack. Both options are fantastic. The combined price for both trips is $8,700/ person.

TRIP DETAILS

In June at this latitude, the sun never sets. The vastness of the landscape and unending daylight create a euphoric sense of possibility.

We start our trip near the northern edge of the Brooks Range. To the north the land falls away across the vast Coastal Plain toward the frozen Arctic Ocean. Here where the Coastal Plain meets the mountains and caribou tend to linger in order to feed and to rest. If our timing is lucky they may be an ever present sight.

We too will linger in the foothills, hiking for vistas of the route ahead and back into the rugged Brooks Range to the south.

After a day of exploring the edge of the mountains our journey begins. After discussions about boating safety we inflate our packrafts, preparing to negotiate the river to the sea.  The river is not large nor is the paddling straightforward. The Egaksrak River is rocky and shallow and we will have to work to stay in the deeper channels, dodging sandbars and back-paddling away from the bluffs. The clear splashy little river is incredibly beautiful and varied. Between riffles we can spin circles and watch falcons soar above the mountains.

As we head towards the coast, both the river and the sky grow larger. In general the paddling gets easier as we head north. Once we leave the mountains behind, we paddle across an ocean of tundra, the famed Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Here the river splits into uncountable channels and our newfound paddling abilities will help us keep to the deeper ones. In the plains we will paddle past fields of river ice and we may intercept large bands from the Porcupine River herd of caribou. Near the trip’s end we reach the Beaufort Sea and can paddle out to the sea ice to look for eider ducks and polar bear tracks.

Wildlife is of course, unpredictable, but the area is home to the 200,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd and in many years they filter through the foothills and cross the Coastal Plain. Wolves and bears are common sights. Golden eagles, horned larks, and an Asian bird called a Northern wheatear thrive even in the starkest of alpine areas. As you approach the coast, the wildlife and scenery changes and animals like arctic fox and musk oxen become more common.  The birding along the Arctic Coast is legendary, particularly at this time of year.

Packrafts are lightweight one-person rafts propelled with a kayak paddle. Weighing in at around six pounds, they offer unparalleled freedom for wilderness explorers.  This Alaska packrafting trip will have its challenges, but there is ample time for day hikes and leisure. This trip has no backpacking but still plenty of chances to day-hike. Participants need to have some paddling experience prior to the trip.

Last updated: January 27, 2023

Itinerary

What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

June 19

Meet your guide at Arctic Wild headquarters at 4 pm for a pre-trip meeting where we can check gear and help you get ready for our departure the following morning. Meals and lodging on your own.

Happy Solstice!

June 20

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 to the northern edge of the Brooks Range. After the plane departs, we will make camp, eat dinner and then take a hike under the midnight sun.

If you were on the backpacking trip just prior, this is a day to rest, await the arrival of your new friends, and get ready for the next leg of the journey.

June 21

We have the day to enjoy the mountains and the wildlife. We hope to take a long hike to a mountain that affords views of the route ahead, and the mountains to the south.

 

June 22 - 24

Before launching into the river, your guide will discuss 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, and braided 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 we cannot 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.

June 25 -26

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.

June 27

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.

Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. His knowledge for the flora, fauna, and natural history of the tundra is astonishing. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!

 

- Brent, Colorado, USA

DETAILS

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter

Packraft, life jacket and paddle, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select camping equipment is available through Arctic Wild

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear

Backpack, waterproof bags, wading pants, and clothing

Gratuity for guide(s)

WEATHER & BUGS

Weather this time of year is typically dry and sunny, though we can get some powerful storms that can either rain or snow on us.  Precipitation is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. You can expect temperatures to range from the 30s to the 70s.  Mosquitoes could be bothersome on the trip. DEET and a head net are essential but towards the coast the breeze generally keeps them at bay.

RECOMMENDED READING

Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Geographic

Midnight Wilderness by Debbie Miller

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Information on Brooks Range Glaciers by Dr. Matt Nolan

Packraft Handbook by Luc Mehl

More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River