Arctic Refuge Packraft

GUIDED ALASKA Packraft

Arctic Refuge Packraft

DATES

June 14, 2023 - June 22, 2023

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

TRIP COST

$6,800

calendar

DATES

June 14, 2023 - June 22, 2023
region

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
price

TRIP COST

$6,800

Start with a short hike in the northern most Brooks Range. Then paddle your own packraft down a challenging river to the Arctic Coast and stand on the sea ice! Join us this summer solstice for this unique Mountains-to-the-Sea packrafting adventure.

TRIP DETAILS

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

Starting in the stunning Sadleroichit Mountains, we take a few days to explore the northern most extension of the Brooks Range. Climb a ridge for views of 9,000 ft peaks to the south, or follow caribou trails into canyons. To the north the land falls away across the vast Coastal Plain toward the frozen Arctic Ocean.

After a day of exploring the Sadleroichit, we shoulder packs and make our way up a gravely creek and over a low pass. From here it is all downhill, and we descend over hill and dale to a small river, our path the sea. We will cover a total of about 8 miles with heavy packs.

River-side, we can drop packs and inflate packrafts preparing to negotiate the river to the sea.  The river is not large nor is the paddling straightforward. The Sadleroichit is rocky and shallow and we will have to work to stay in the deeper channels, dodging rocks, and back-paddling away from the bluffs on the north-side of the river. 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. The paddling gets easier as we head north. Eventually we leave the mountains behind and paddle across the an ocean of tundra, the famed Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On the plains we will paddle past fields of river ice and we may intercept the Porcupine Herd of caribou. Near the trip’s end we reach the Beaufort Sea and can paddle out to the sea ice, where eider ducks and and polar bear tracks can be found.

Wildlife is of course unpredictable, but the area is home to the 225,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd and on 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 muskoxen become more common.  The birding along the Arctic Coast is legendary.

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 packrafting trip has less backpacking but more challenging paddling than our other packrafting trips. Participants need to have some paddling experience prior to the trip and we will host a 1/2 day packrafting course on Day One of the trip near Fairbanks. Participation in this training day is required (and fun).

Last updated: December 27, 2021

Itinerary

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

June 14

Meet your guide at Arctic Wild at 9 am for a half-day of packrafting on a local creek. We will cover a variety of safety topics and help you hone your paddling skills, returning to Arctic Wild for a pre-trip meeting in the afternoon where we can check gear and help you get ready for our departure the following morning. Meals and lodging on your own.

June 15

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 into the Sadleroichit Mountains. After hiking to a suitable campsite, we will make camp, eat dinner and then take a hike under the midnight sun.

June 16

Packs are heavy and the scenery is marvelous. We walk up a gravely creek bed which eventually peters out into a low-broad tussock pass following caribou trails towards the river.

 

June 17 - 18

Before launching into the river, your guide will remind you of lessons learned in Fairbanks about 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, fast, and rocky 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 with too many rocks to 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 19 - 20

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.

June 21

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. The sun won’t even come close to setting. Happy Solstice!

June 22

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