The Kongakut is a beautiful river offering a great variety of landscapes and arctic wildlife. If you only have one opportunity to visits the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Kongakut is the perfect choice.
Last updated: August 17, 2019
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet with your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the mighty Yukon River and over the Arctic Circle. Land in the Athabascan Indian settlement of Arctic Village, population 120. Time allowing, tour the village before boarding our bush plane for the last leg into the wilderness. Once the plane goes, we are on our own in the immense and quiet landscape.
At any time during the week, we could see caribou, a grizzly bear or two, a wolf, or other arctic wildlife. On paddling days, we’ll travel from 6 to 8 hours per day. We will pull ashore several times each day for brief forays, lunch, or to watch wildlife. At day’s end, we’ll choose a nice dry camp. There will be free time for group and personal pursuits each and every day. Evenings and mornings are good times to explore our surroundings. Guides will lead informal natural history hikes, but you are also welcome to go off on your own.
We usually plan three or four “layover days” on the Kongakut. Our first day-hikes will be in the vicinity of Whale Mountain. This area affords us great opportunities for gaining elevation, admiring wildflowers covering the slopes, and hopefully watching Dall sheep.
We will take another layover before we leave the foothills, where we’ll climb tall slopes for a panoramic view of the arctic. From the broad summits of these 2,000-foot maroon-colored foothills we can survey the breadth of the Brooks Range and the arctic Coastal Plain all the way to the Arctic Ocean.
Time permitting, we’ll also take a layover on the Coastal Plain to walk the tundra expanses colored in cream by Dryas flowers. We often see Tundra Swans on nests in the shimmering distance and caribou gathered on aufeis.
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.
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. Weather permitting, we arrive back in Fairbanks by dinner time.
Such a joy to spend days where time was meaningless. A wonderful adventure and I would like to return next year for a longer, more challenging trip.
You mentioned to me in an email that you have terrific guides - you do indeed. Dave is a superb guide. He is personable, knowledgeable about the Arctic, and has excellent group management skills. I appreciated the time he spent teaching me to read the map, which is not easy without trails. He allowed Adrian and me to hike at our own pace and he encouraged all of us to explore the area surrounding our campsites. I know the others would concur in my praise.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild
Personal clothing and gear per our equipment list
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
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 encounter strong winds and cold temperatures. There will be bugs on this trip! Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net is prudent.