Noatak Packraft – Ellison Custom

Noatak Packraft – Ellison Custom


August 4, 2020 - August 8, 2020


Gates of the Arctic





August 4, 2020 - August 8, 2020


Gates of the Arctic



Explore the headwaters of the Noatak with Arctic Wild. Packraft and hike in the shadow of the tallest peak in the western Brooks Range and search for wildlife along the famed Noatak River. With fun paddling, great wildlife encounters, and endless hiking opportunities, this promises to be an exceptional week in the wilderness.


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. Rich in wildlife and scenic beauty, it is internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site. There is no better place to experience the wilderness and wildlife of the Brooks Range than on the Noatak River.

We will explore the very headwaters of the Noatak, sampling just the highest reaches of this vast watershed by foot and packraft.

When not paddling the Noatak we have time to enjoy some of the best hiking in the arctic and to fish for arctic grayling, northern pike, Dolly Varden and lake trout.  Fall colors might begin to turn while we’re out there, and blueberries should be close to 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 often see wolves, fox, moose and Dall sheep. Some years we see caribou from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd migrate through the Noatak Valley on their way to wintering grounds south of the Brooks Range. We may also see grizzly bears feeding on salmon if the timing is right and the fish have arrived. 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 25 mile packrafting trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn out. The Noatak starts with some fast corners and rocks to dodge, but the packrafts are up to the task and we will help you learn to maneuver. Previous experience is not required to packraft on the Noatak, but familiarity with river boating is very helpful and packrafting experience is recommended.

Last updated: November 25, 2020


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

August 3

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

August 4

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 on a rough gravel bar and will unload our gear and boats. No need to head downriver this first day. Better to settle into the mountains and explore on foot.

August 5-7

We will spend 2 days paddling, and one full day hiking. On our paddling days we’ll spend about 4 or 5 hours on the water. The first paddling day will involve some fast maneuvers. The second day continuous paddling once the current slows. Both days are fun and stunningly beautiful! We can elect to take the layover day in the headwaters, part-way down the river or even at the take-out. Each camp offers unlimited opportunities for exploring and all have options for casting a line.

There will be free time each and every day after camp is pitched for hiking, fishing or relaxing. The long evening is yours to enjoy the golden arctic sunlight.

August 8

Clean up camp and pack our gear before hiking the short 1/4-mile to our pick-up location. Weather permitting, we’ll meet our float plane for the return flight back up the Noatak, over a great many mountains and then on to Fairbanks. Take a shower!

….the caribou herd through our camping meadow, the several grizzlies, the arctic fox, the gorgeous Brooks, the exotic Arctic ocean, ice bergs, great people, excellent AW gear, and wonderful guides!!!


- Marilyn , Minnessota, USA



Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

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

Packrafts, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild and is included in the price of your trip.


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

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.


Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt

Packrafting! by Roman Dial

Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn

People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes

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