Aichilik Rafting – Tishman

Aichilik Rafting – Tishman


June 12, 2024 - June 23, 2024


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge





June 12, 2024 - June 23, 2024


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



The Aichilik River is a beautiful clear river traversing the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The trip starts in the foothills of the Brooks Range and ends at the frozen Arctic Ocean, allowing you to experience a great diversity of wildlife and habitats. Early summer in the arctic is a time of abundance, with multitudes of birds nesting on the tundra, 24 hour daylight, the river still running high from snowmelt, and with luck lots of caribou feasting on the green tundra.


The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a wilderness unparalleled. The diversity of landscapes, seasonal abundance of globally important wildlife, significance to indigenous communities, and inspiring solitude has garnered the area international attention.

Silence, sweeping vistas, pure water, and solitude make this an exceptional wilderness journey. The hiking in the foothills is excellent and we can expect wildlife encounters each and every day. Some years, the Porcupine Caribou Herd numbering more than 200,000 migrates across the Aichilik near the solstice. With luck we may be in the right place at the right time to witness great throngs of caribou swimming the river. Even if we don’t see them, their presence is etched in the tundra of this inspiring wilderness.

We start our 45-mile adventure in a region of rolling, but rugged mountains.   We will linger here, spending the first several days day-hiking along the mountain front of the Brooks Range. There are long ridges to climb, valleys to explore and mile after mile of wilderness to scan for wildlife.

Once the full group is assembled on June 16, we head for the coast in rafts, always on the lookout for caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, musk oxen, arctic foxes, and birds of many feather.   After a day of paddling in the mountains we can take another day (or two) to hike at the mountain front. As we paddle across the Coastal Plain the vistas grow and we have expansive views of the Brooks Range stretching away to the east and west. Towards the end of the week we enter the Aichilik River Delta, which teems with bird life.

Once at the coast we will paddle several miles of this protected coastline, marveling at the abundant bird life, looking for dens of arctic foxes and musing over the Inupiat and whaling artifacts along the beach. We may even be able to venture out onto the sea ice to watch ringed seals basking in the spring sun depending on conditions.

The Aichilik River is swift and shallow as it traverses the Coastal Plain and slows only once it reaches the delta where it splits into multiple channels and mixes with the Beaufort Sea. This is a leisurely-paced trip with lots of time for hiking, birding, photography or whatever pleases you most. No experience is necessary to paddle-raft, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling under the guidance of an experienced raft captain. Though not a technical river, wilderness travel does have its challenges. We may need to get out and walk the rafts in shallow places. The coast is often breezy if not outright windy, meaning we may have to paddle steadily for several hours as we near the arctic coast.

On these trips you should expect to encounter a wide variety of weather from cold rain to warm sun and everything in between. We live in the elements and work together to paddle through the Refuge. That being said, you do not need to be an adventure athlete to participate. Many people well into their 70s have participated in trips like this. Your guides are skilled at setting expectations and ensuring everyone has a grand adventure.

Last updated: March 28, 2024


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

June 11

Meet with your guides for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks. (Dan and Sheryl fly from Teshekpuk Lake to the Aichilik this day.)

June 12

Fly 200 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabascan settlement of Arctic Village. From there, we board an even smaller plane and carry on through the Brooks Range to a river bar alongside the Aichilik River. Once the plane goes, we are on our own in the immense and quiet landscape.

June 13 - 15

Three full days to explore the northern Brooks Range at a spectacular time of year. Flowers are emerging and birds are signing through the all-night dawn. Hikes are tailored to suit the weather and your desires. The mountains are calling.

(June 15th, 4 pm pre-trip meeting for Gwendolyn at Arctic Wild)

June 16

Assuming good weather, Gwendolyn flies from Fairbanks to the Aichilik arriving mid-day and all can take a long hike in the afternoon. In the evening we inflate the rafts and prepare to paddle to the sea.

June 17

Pack camp and load everything into our two rafts, then the current whisks us past icy bluffs, striated cliffs, and lupine covered meadows. near day’s end we negotiate some ice fields before making camp anew at the northern edge of the mountains.

June 18 - 22

At any time during the week, we could see caribou, a grizzly bear or two, a wolf, or other arctic wildlife. The next three paddling days, we will be “on the go” for 6 to 8 hours. We won’t be in the rafts that whole time, however, and will pull ashore several times each day for brief forays or to watch wildlife. At day’s end, we’ll choose a nice, dry, scenic camp.

We will plan two or three “layover days” and 3 full paddling days from the mountain front to the sea. Our first day hikes will be in the Brooks Range foothills. This area affords us great opportunities for gaining elevation, admiring wildflowers covering the slopes, and hopefully watching wildlife.

Our final layover will be on the arctic coast. The 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.

June 23

Await the arrival of our bush pilot, who will land on the beach. We will fly west along the coast to the community of Kaktovik where we will switch to a larger plane. Weather permitting we arrive back in Fairbanks for a late dinner.

I had a great time. This trip was amazing in every single way. Definitely one I will never forget. ….an amazing guide. As good as you can ask for: knowledgeable, cool, great cook, always positive… Kind of guy who can turn the worst scenario into the best. Definitely the best guide I’ve ever had, hands down!

- Mario, SD, Dominican Republic



Transportation from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Select camping equipment

Professional guide service



Non-camp meals

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 probably encounter strong winds and cold temperatures. Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) is always prudent in the arctic but we don’t expect bad bugs during these dates.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Geographic

Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez

Caribou & the Barren-Lands, George Calef

Fifty Years Below Zero, Charles Brown

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!"
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Eileen - Canning River