We start our trip where two enormous mountains stand like sentinels flanking the Koyukuk river creating what Bob Marshall called “ The Gates of the Arctic.” His poetic flare and reverence for the Koyukuk gave name to the park we will explore for a week. We will be better equipped and provisioned than was Bob Marshall, who spent a decade from 1929 to 1939 exploring and mapping this region and was later an ardent voice for it protection, but the feeling of discovery and awe will be with us nonetheless. Times of rugged explorers, miners and Athabascan Natives will be on our minds as we paddle this scenic river in our sturdy collapsible canoes.
Last updated: August 11, 2018
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide(s) in Fairbanks for a pre-trip meeting at 2 pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Leaving Fairbanks we fly 200 miles, over the Yukon River, to the small town of Coldfoot. We then catch a smaller plane for a spectacular flight to the North Fork of the Koyukuk River. We set-up camp and enjoy our first night in the wilderness.
We have a full day to settle into our wilderness home. The hiking is good here in the headwaters and we will explore on foot from camp, getting to know the place and the routines of life in the Brooks Range before we start the canoe trip.
After assembling canoes and talking about river safety, we set off onto the North Fork—a small, clear river. We spend the next week enjoying this little river. The river is alternately fast and rocky and calm and sandy. The river calms for our last few days of paddling before joining the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk.
A final morning to enjoy the solitude and camp routines before we paddle the remain miles to Bettles. Hot showers are in order!
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.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Canoes, paddles, life jackets
Safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Select Rental items
Non-camp meals (eg Bettles or Coldfoot)
Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Early August tends to be mild and relatively warm but some years fall storms arrive early and heavy rains are possible. Prepare for variable conditions which include temperatures in the 70’s and in the 30’s. Bugs should be on the wane but a headnet and DEET are advised especially for areas with biting flies.