Canning River Packraft – Illg Custom

Canning River Packraft – Illg Custom


August 5, 2020 - August 14, 2020


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


$8,300/ person



August 5, 2020 - August 14, 2020


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


$8,300/ person

The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many claim it to be the most beautiful. Our packrafting journey through the wilderness is designed to immerse you in the beauty of this exceptional area, introduce you to its varied wildlife, and to facilitate your learning about wilderness travel. The Canning offers excellent pack rafting and nearly endless hiking opportunities. Naturalists will delight in the diversity of wildlife and birds.


The Canning begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged and severely beautiful. As the river flows seaward, it bounds the west end of three sub-ranges of the Brooks Range, the prosaically named “Third Range,” the Shublik Mountains, and the Sadlerochit Mountains. By trip’s end the land is broad and the sky enormous. From a hill near the take out spot there is a view to the Arctic Ocean in good weather.

From each of our camps there will be time and opportunity for day hikes deeper into the mountains in search of wildlife. Other activities can include fishing for grayling and arctic char, making casts of tracks we find in the mud, searching out raptor nest on the cliffs near the river, or simply enjoying the quiet of the wilderness.

Wildlife encounters are difficult to predict, but in years past we have seen a great variety of wildlife on the Canning River. Sighting have included grizzly bears, wolves, arctic and red fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, musk oxen, wolverine and one year we saw a Polar Bear near the coast.

For birds you can expect to see a host of passerines including some rarities like blue throats, wheatears and wag-tails. Raptors will be fledging and the young birds will be learning to hunt on their own. We may see golden eagles, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks, short-eared owls, and maybe even the snowy owl, known as “ukpik” in Inupiaq.

Though it is not apparent on the ground, the Canning is at a literal crossroads of conservation. The headwaters are protected as wilderness, but as we travel down river, we enter the famous 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area Congress has never been able to either permanently protect nor exploit for oil and gas.

We’ll paddle about 80 miles of the Canning, from near the headwaters just north of Mt Chamberlain, nearly to the Coast. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We may have to drag the boats over shallow spots; we will have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. Packrafting is an active and engaging sport. There are no rapids per se on this stretch of the Canning but packrafting on the Canning can be busy as you negotiate tight corners and rocky sections. Instruction is provided but familiarity with rivers and boating will help you feel more comfortable.

Last updated: November 25, 2020


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

August 4

Meet your guides for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.

August 5

Fly from Fairbanks, over the Yukon River and then further north, over the spectacular Philip Smith Mountains, to our put-in on on the Canning River. We will set up camp and inflate our rafts in preparation for the next day’s float.

August 6 - 13

We will spend our time floating from the headwaters of the Canning to the northern edge of the mountains. Along the way we will have as many as three layover days to enjoy day hiking, fishing, or just hanging around camp, enjoying the solitude and quiet. The hiking is fantastic the entire length of the river and wildlife can be found at any time. There are hard hikes and easy strolls from each camp. Only your imagination limits the adventures we can have. On our travel days we will paddle for about 6 or 7 hours. There is a bit of fast water but also plenty of stretches where we can watch the sky and scan the mountains for wildlife.

August 14

Pack our gear and await the arrival of our bush pilot, who will land on a long gravel bar. Weather permitting, we will fly back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner.

You run a first-class operation, and I just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the 10 day rafting trip (what a place!), and I particularly wanted to to let you know that the guides did an outstanding and exemplary job. Not only were they both excessively competent in all the skills necessary to see us safely down the river, and not only did they provide every conceivable creature comfort (I mean, blueberry pancakes in the wilderness? What more could a man want!), but they proved to be the most pleasant and personable of companions, with seemingly inexhaustible reserves of patience, good humor, and zest.

- Chris, Maryland, USA



Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

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

Packrafts, paddles, life jackets, dry suits, safety & repair gear

Select camping equipment is available through Arctic Wild

Professional guide service


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear, See full equipment list

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)


Expect a variety of weather. Temperatures can range from in the high 60’s down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs should be gone but bring some DEET just in case.


Land of Extremes, Alex Huryn

Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Geographic

Midnight Wilderness, Debbie Miller

Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer

Packrafting!,  Roman Dial

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!"
client client client client client
Eileen - Canning River