Arctic Wild’s signature wilderness canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Canoeing, hiking and wildlife in Alaska’s biggest wilderness. There are few places in Alaska’s arctic where we so reliably see wildlife and a small private trip is an ideal way to enjoy the area.
Far north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park, the Noatak River is an arctic gem. From its headwaters in the granite peaks around Mt. Igikpak, it flows west through glacier-capped peaks and rolling tundra for over 400 miles to the Chukchi Sea. There is no better place to experience the wilderness and wildlife of the Brooks Range than on the Noatak River.
As a private trip, the pace and tenor of the trip is guided by you. Generally we have several layover days to enjoy some of the best hiking in the arctic and to fish for arctic grayling, northern pike, arctic char and lake trout. Fall colors will begin to turn while we’re out there, and blueberries are fully ripe. Wildflowers like grass of Parnassus and arctic poppies will grace the tundra with the last of the summer’s blooms.
The open country makes wildlife sightings a daily experience on the Noatak. We almost always see wolves, fox, moose and Dall sheep. Thousands upon thousands of caribou from the western arctic caribou herd migrate through the Noatak valley on their way to wintering grounds south of the Brooks Range.
While paddling the Noatak we pass two salmon spawning streams. These are excellent and safe places to watch grizzly bears feeding. Birders will not be disappointed. Passerines and waterfowl wing through the Noatak every fall, stopping over in the many lush willow thickets and rich ponds of the broad valley.
In addition to the natural wonders of the area, the Noatak also has a rich human history and artifacts of ancient Eskimo life can be found near the deep lakes and across the tundra.
This is a fairly easy 70-mile canoe trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn out. And if you want to cover more ground, we do have the option of paddling further down river to an alternate take-out. The Noatak flows along smoothly on this stretch, with current enough to keep us moving, but if the wind blows opposite the current we will have to work to reach camp at each days end. Towards the end of the trip the river picks up speed and we get to ride the current to the take-out. Previous canoe experience is helpful, but instruction is provided by guides.
Last updated: April 13, 2021
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
It’s a long day. We fly north from Fairbanks over the Yukon River and Arctic Circle to the arctic village of Bettles. From Bettles we charter a plane into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. We’ll land near the river with mountains all around. If the mood strikes us, we will assemble the canoes and paddle for a bit. Or we might elect to explore our surroundings on foot and save the paddling for the next day.
We’ll canoe our way down the Noatak. On days when we travel, we will spend about five hours on the river paddling about 15 miles each day. Alternating days will be layover days when we will explore on foot from camp. We can climb peaks from every camp, but there is also lots of good walking along the river, or up pretty tundra creeks. There will be free time each and every day after camp is pitched. The long evening is yours to enjoy the golden arctic sunlight.
Clean up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll catch our return flight back up the Noatak, over a great many mountains and then on to Fairbanks. Remove rubber boots!
Michael listened to our descriptions of what we wanted in a trip and investigated the possibility of making that sort of trip happen. Unlike some other guide services, he was attuned to what we were saying and did not outright say he could not accommodate us because Arctic Wild only provided trips like X, Y, or Z. In my opinion, the major difference between Arctic Wild and the 4 other guide services I talked to was that Michael tried to design a trip meeting our trip objectives and wishes.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Select Camping Equipment is available from Arctic Wild
Personal clothing and gear, See full equipment list.
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 70s, averaging in the high 50’s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we can get lots of sunny weather this time of the year too. Mosquitoes should not be a problem on this trip, but a few flies could still be bothersome. Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net is always prudent.