Teshekpuk Packraft

Teshekpuk Packraft


June 26, 2025 - July 3, 2025


Western Arctic





June 26, 2025 - July 3, 2025


Western Arctic



Explore the unexplored with Arctic Wild. We will paddle through the remote and pristine Western Arctic, visiting the enigmatic Pik Sand Dunes and ending at wildlife rich Teshekpuk Lake. This is an exploratory trip, a first for both you and for us.


Far above the Arctic Circle, where the midnight sun wanders the sky for weeks on end, lies some of the most important wildlife habitat in the entire circumpolar Arctic. Teshekpuk Lake and the surrounding tundra and wetlands host more breeding and molting birds than any other part of Alaska’s Arctic.

South of Teshekpuk Lake is an area of sandy ridges, long river bluffs, and flowered tundra benches winding between and through a maze of ponds and lakes. This mosaic of water and land is thick with wildlife during the brief summer. Birds from the world over migrate to Teshekpuk’s wetlands to breed.

All four species of eider ducks, an estimated 600,000 shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of geese including 1/3 of the worlds brant, yellow-billed loons, along with jaegers, snowy owls and a variety of passerines breed and molt in the area. This abundance of bird life supports foxes, weasels including wolverine and a host of avian predators.

The area is also home to the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd, our only non-migratory caribou herd in Arctic Alaska. These 40,000 odd caribou spend the entire year on the Arctic Slope and tend to gather south of the lake in late June to feed on the fresh green tundra. We have excellent chances of seeing caribou on this trip.

Hiking in a straight line through this wildlife rich maze would be impossible. But the areas small rivers provide a path through the wilderness and an excellent way for us to discover the beauty of this rarely visited corner of Alaska. Packrafts, single person inflatable boats that weigh about 7 pounds, are ideally suited for navigating this watery wilderness and will allow us to explore where others can only dream.

Our adventure starts in the Pik Sand Dunes, 7,000 acres of tawny sand and azure lakes in a sea of green tundra. Home to an endemic flower and an important refuge for caribou, Alaska’s northernmost dunes are disorientingly beautiful, stark and unique. From the very start it is obvious we are in a unique place!


The work begins. It is about 7 miles from the edge of the Dunes to the river and packs are heavy with boats, warm clothing, food, and equipment. Fortunately there are several long lakes that we can paddle across with relatively short portages between the lakes. The last mile of the hike is over a sand ridge before the descent to the river. The walking will be varied, from firm sand flats to boot sucking swampy wetlands. But there is no need to hurry and there is lots to marvel at and discover.

Once we reach Kealok Creek travel we are done carrying heavy packs and we encounter different wildlife and scenery. At this time of year we expect the Kealok to be past the spring freshet but still high enough to move us along without bumping into too many sand-bars. The river swings between river bluffs and permafrost banks smoothly flowing over a sandy bottom and past innumerable lakes and ponds which dot the tundra. The enormity of the landscape and sky allow us to scan the horizon for wildlife and challenge us to discern ground squirrel from bear. Without our familiar references of trees and mountains the coastal plain is dreamlike and wondrous. Around each bend the tundra is alive with birdlife and wildflowers and this land of ice, water, and sand surprises and delights us.

After several days of paddling past fox dens and nesting geese the river spreads into a sandy delta and melts into Teshekpuk Lake, Arctic Alaska’s largest lake, practically an inland sea. Still ringed by snow drifts and dotted with last winter’s ice the lake sprawls to the north begging us to explore. If the wind allows we can paddle out onto the lake and along the shore, likely encountering flocks of waterfowl, and loons. There are Inupiat camps historic and ancient along the lakeshore which demonstrate the long and close ties between the lake and the people of the North Slope. Caribou are very likely to be moving through this area as they transition back and forth between the excellent feeding south of the lake and the Arctic Coast just 10 miles away.

You need not be Earnest Shackleton nor John James Audubon to enjoy this trip. An interest in natural history and bird life will add to your trip. And because of the hike with heavy packs from Pik Dunes to the river on the second day of the trip, you should be fit and willing to endure some discomfort. This trip isn’t for everyone but an adventurous attitude is as important as a strong back on an exploratory trip like this one. Physical training and some familiarity with kayaking, canoeing or packrafting will increase your enjoyment and safety.

Last updated: December 22, 2023


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

June 25

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.

June 26

Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River over the Brooks Range and into the Arctic Slope. Pik Dunes is visible from a long way off as a bright speck in an ocean of green tundra and lakes. We land right on the sand and after we bid our pilot farewell we are swallowed by the silence.

June 27

We have a full day to explore Pik Dunes and the surrounding wetlands. Walking is excellent in the sand and the diversity of habitats makes for an interesting day of walking, birding, fishing or whatever delights you the most.

June 28

With endless daylight we are never in a hurry, but we do have some miles to cover, so today we shoulder packs and hike out of the sand and onto the tundra. It is less than a mile to the first lake and here we inflate our packrafts, stow our packs and paddle north. A mile of paddling brings us to another much smaller portage before we begin the traverse of a long shallow lake where we will likely camp for the night in the company of birds.

June 29

More lake paddling and our longest portage of a mile and a half brings us down the bluffs to the shore of the Kealok.

This clear water creek winds northward to Teshekpuk allowing us to travel this wildlife rich area with relative ease, stopping to watch wildlife and exploring the tundra beyond.

June 29 - June 30

We have 3 days to paddle the nearly 30 miles of the creek. If the water is up and the wind is down it will be a lazy float with binoculars in hand.

More likely, with only two feet of drop per mile the current will be insufficient to counter the wind and we will paddle our way north searching for the deeper parts of the creek and hugging the bluffs to duck out of the frequent northeasterly winds.

Regardless of how easy or hard the miles are to cover, we have lots of time to explore the area and to consider it’s wildlife and flora. At 70° degrees north and with no mountains to the north the sun will shine brightly through the night. Birdlife reaches a peak in the long shadows of the midnight sun.

July 1

Teshekpuk at last!  We will likely hear the lake before we see it, the rhythm of waves on gravel and the cries of gulls and geese carried across the tundra by the wind. At its mouth the Kealok spreads into multiple channels and forms a broad sandy delta, an ideal location for an improvised airstrip and our rendezvous with our pilot a few days hence.

July 2

We have a full layover day here at the edge of Teshekpuk, a lake so large we can’t see the far side. There are some higher bluffs within walking distance of our camp, a beach which arcs to the horizon, gnarled driftwood from who knows where, and a dizzying abundance of birds.

After having spent the past few days paddling we will likely want to stretch our legs and hike, but if conditions permit it will be fun to paddle out into the lake to bob amongst the waterfowl and contemplate the enormity of the lake.

July 3

After a week in eternal daylight, sleep schedules tend to shift towards nocturnal. Fortunately the pilot isn’t schedule to arrive until around noon, when the fog is more likely to have dissipated.

We then reluctantly load our packs into the plane and return to a world, first of mountains, trees and eventually to a world of roads, buildings and showers.

We hope to arrive back in Fairbanks about 6 pm, but the weather sets the schedule.

The guides were uncommonly knowledgeable, competent, hardworking, and they consistently took care of the group before taking care of their own stuff. They kept our safety in mind while staying open to suggestions, and allowing folks a lot of freedom for personal wanderings.

- Jim, Alaska, USA



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


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear

Backpack, waterproof bags, wading pants, and clothing. Note we will not use dry-suits on this trip. You will need to bring wading pants or wading bibs.

Gratuity for guide(s)


Weather this time of year is typically dry and sunny, though not particularly warm. Precipitation is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. You can expect temperatures to range from the 30s to the 60s.  Strong winds and fog are common. Mosquitoes could be bothersome on the trip. DEET and a head net are essential but the steady sea-breeze generally keeps them at bay. Nuiqsut is the closest weather station.


Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

Whales, Ice, and Men by John Bockstoce

On Arctic Ground by Debbie Miller

Naturalists Guide to the Arctic by E.C. Pielou

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

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