GUIDED ALASKA Inactive Private Trips

rafting in the arctic refuge chris miller photo

Aichilik Rafting – Arctic Refuge Defense

calendar

DATES

June 24, 2020 - July 1, 2020
region

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
price

TRIP COST

$$

The Aichilik River is a beautiful clear river that traverses the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The trip starts in the foothills of the Brooks Range and ends at the frozen Arctic Ocean, allowing visitors to experience a great diversity of wildlife and habitats. The trip is timed to coincide with spring in all its abundance, with multitudes of birds nesting on the tundra, 24 hour daylight, and the river high with spring runoff.

TRIP DETAILS

Silence, sweeping vistas, pure water, and solitude make this an exceptional wilderness journey. The hiking in the foothills is excellent and we may encounter wildlife each and every day. The biggest groups of caribou from the Porcupine Herd will likely be west of the Aichilik at this time of year, but we often see bands of bull caribou and the tundra is etched with caribou trails from millennia of migration.

We start our 45-mile rafting adventure in a region of rolling, but rugged mountains. After an initial two days spent hiking along mountain front of the Brooks Range, we head for the coast, always on the lookout for caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, musk oxen, arctic foxes, and birds of many feather.   As we paddle across the Coastal Plain the vistas grow and we have expansive views of the Brooks Range stretching away to the east and west.

Towards the end of the week we enter the Aichilik River delta, which teems with bird life. Once at the coast we will paddle several miles of this protected coastline, marveling at the abundant bird life, looking for dens of arctic foxes and musing over the Inupiat and whaling artifacts along the beach. We may even be able to venture out onto the sea ice to watch ringed seals basking in the spring sun.

The Aichilik river is swift and shallow as it traverses the Coastal Plain and slows only once it reaches the delta where it splits into multiple channels and mixes with the Beaufort Sea. This is a leisurely-paced trip with lots of time for hiking, birding, photography or whatever pleases you most. No experience is necessary to paddle-raft, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling under the guidance of an experienced raft captain. Though not a technical river, wilderness travel does have its challenges. We may need to get out and walk the rafts in shallow places. The coast is often breezy if not windy, meaning we may have to paddle steadily for several hours as we near the arctic coast.

Last updated: November 25, 2020

Itinerary

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

June 24

Meet with your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at 8 am pm in at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks. Once we are packed for the field and questions have been answered we head for the airport and then to the Neets’aii Gwich’in community of Arctic Village. We plan on spending the afternoon and evening as guests in the community to learn about life in rural Alaska and residents efforts to protect the Arctic Refuge and the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Details of this visit are TBD.

June 25

After breakfast in Arctic Village we return to the airstrip and meet our bush-planes. Then we fly through the peaks of the Brooks Range leaving both trees and civilization far behind. Once we get to the Aichilik we unload on a river bar at the northern edge of the mountains. Once the plane goes, we are on our own in the immense and quiet landscape.

June 26 - June 30

At any time during the week, we could see caribou, a grizzly bear or two, a wolf, or other arctic wildlife. On the three anticipated paddling days, we will be on the “go” for 6 to 8 hours. We won’t be in the rafts that whole time, however, and will pull ashore several times each day for brief forays or to watch wildlife. At day’s end, we’ll choose a nice, dry, scenic camp. There will be free time for group and personal pursuits. Guides will lead informal natural history hikes, but you are also welcome to go off on your own.

We will plan one or two “layover days” and 3 full paddling days. Our first day hikes will be in the Brooks Range foothills. This area affords us great opportunities for gaining elevation, admiring wildflowers covering the slopes, and hopefully watching wildlife.

Our final layover will be on the arctic coast. Hiking along the beaches is excellent and a pretty good workout. Depending on sea ice conditions, we may be able to climb an icy “pressure ridge” formed by the frozen Arctic Ocean.

We will plan two or three “layover days” and 3 full paddling days. Our first day hikes will be in the Brooks Range foothills. This area affords us great opportunities for gaining elevation, admiring wildflowers covering the slopes, and hopefully watching wildlife.

Our final layover will be on the arctic coast. Hiking along the beaches is excellent and a pretty good workout. Depending on sea ice conditions, we may be able to climb an icy “pressure ridge” formed by the frozen Arctic Ocean.

July 1

Await the arrival of our bush pilot, who will land on the beach. We will fly south across the breadth of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, past Arctic Village and back to Fairbanks, arriving (weather permitting) in time for dinner.

We had great guides and traveling companions, and were fortunate to see lots of caribou, bears, and other wildlife. The variety of scenery and adventure was great, even dragging the rafts through the mud on the delta was strangely fun. We’re really glad the trip went all the way to Arctic Coast. Great to have the library and spotting scope.

 

- Jeanine, Wisconsin, USA

DETAILS

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Transportation from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Rental Equipment

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List

Gratuity for guides

WEATHER & BUGS

Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 80s even in a single day. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get lots of warm sunny weather this time of the year. As we get closer to the Arctic Ocean temperatures will drop as will the insects. Right on the coast we will probably encounter strong winds and cold temperatures. Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) is always prudent in the arctic but we don’t expect bad bugs except maybe the first couple days of the trip.

RECOMMENDED READING

Seasons of Life and Land, Shubanker Banjeeri

Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez

Caribou & the Barren-Lands, George Calef

Fifty Years Below Zero, Charles Brown

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