Canning River Rafting – Littleton

Canning River Rafting – Littleton


June 25, 2025 - July , 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge





June 25, 2025 - July , 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many claim it to be the most beautiful. Our journey through the wilderness is designed to immerse you in the beauty of this exceptional area, introduce you to its varied wildlife, and to facilitate your learning about wilderness travel. The Canning offers excellent rafting and nearly endless hiking opportunities. Diversity in wildlife and birds will keep you wanting your binoculars handy.


The Canning begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged and severely beautiful. As the river flows seaward, the sky opens up and the vistas grow until, out on the coastal plain, the tundra seems to roll forever under endless skies. As we paddle our way down the Canning’s clear waters we traverse the western edge of the Arctic Refuge and encounter a great variety of landscapes. We have several layover days planned to explore on foot, and we will have plenty of time to get to know the wilderness and its inhabitants.

The Marsh Fork of the Canning is steep and fast, and bound by grand mountains on either side. Dall sheep can be seen from the river and the hiking is superb. Once we reach the main stem of the Canning, with the splashy and fun Class III whitewater behind us, the river passes several small sub-ranges of the Brooks Range. With colorful sedimentary rocks, powerful springs, and often, caribou grazing on the slopes, each of these mountain ranges is unique and we will take time to hike and explore them. Beyond the mountains, where you feel like you can see the curve of the earth, we may find musk oxen feeding in the willows or find wolves trotting down the long gray gravel-bars.

From each of our camps there will be time and opportunity for day hikes deeper into the mountains in search of wildlife. Other activities can include fishing for grayling and arctic char, making casts of tracks we find in the mud, searching out raptor nest on the cliffs near the river, or simply enjoying the quiet of the wilderness.

Wildlife encounters are difficult to predict, but in years past we have seen a great variety of wildlife on the Canning River. Sightings have included grizzly bears, wolves, arctic and red fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, musk oxen, wolverine and one year we saw a polar bear near the coast. For birds, you can expect to see a host of passerines including some rarities like blue throats, wheatears and wagtails. Raptors will be nest and the adults busy hunting to feed nestlings. We may see golden eagles, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks, short-eared owls, and maybe even the snowy owl, known as “ukpik” in Inupiaq.

We’ll paddle about 90 miles of the Canning, from near the headwaters of the Marsh Fork, nearly to the Coast. There are several options for pick-up locations and if we want to spend more time hiking and less time on the water then we can shorten the trip to either 40 miles or 60 miles but reaching the delta of the Canning is a good and realistic goal. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We may have to drag the boats over shallow spots; we will have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. There is Class III whitewater on our second day. But with experienced guides and a thirst for adventure the challenges of wilderness travel can be taken in stride. And with lots of time to cover the distance we can adjust the pace of the trip to suit the weather and the desires of you and your friends.

Last updated: June 10, 2024


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

June 24

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

June 25

Fly from Fairbanks to the Gwich’in settlement of Arctic Village, where we switch to a smaller plane and head further north, over the spectacular Philip Smith Mountains, to our put-in on on the Marsh Fork of the Canning River. We will set up camp and inflate our rafts in preparation for the next day’s float.

June 26 - July 5

We will spend our time floating from the headwaters of the Marsh Fork to the Coastal Plain. Along the way we will have as many as three or four layover days to enjoy day hiking, fishing, or just hanging around camp, enjoying the solitude and quiet. The hiking is fantastic the entire length of the river and wildlife can be found at any time. There are hard hikes and easy strolls from each camp. Only your imagination limits the adventures we can have. On our travel days we will paddle for about about 5 hours. There is a bit of whitewater and lots of fast water but also plenty of stretches where we can watch the sky and scan the mountains for wildlife. We will bring one paddle raft, captained by one of our guides and helped down the river by 3 of you. We will also bring an oar raft which can take the bulk of the gear and 2 or more others from your family and will be rowed by your second guide.

July 6

Pack our gear and await the arrival of our bush pilot, who will land on a long gravel bar. If the weather permits, we will fly back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner.

I genuinely feel, having traveled in South America, Australia, and Africa to remote villages and lodges, huts etc. that Alaska was the most foreign I have ever felt. And I am glad to have experienced it.
One of my biggest impressions is that I am so so very glad we had Arctic Wild as our outfitters. Michael Wald and his team were terrific and well prepared. I can’t say enough about the attention to detail and the experience of them and especially our guide Nancy Pfeiffer. I talked with other guides and with other groups. After each conversation, (trust me, they were lengthy chats as we were on a gravel runway sitting on our packs…) I thought how lucky we were to be with Nancy and Arctic Wild.


- Linda, Washington, USA



Transportation beyond 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 through Arctic Wild and is included



Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guides


Expect a variety of weather. Temperatures can range from in the 70’s down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs will emerge during this trip, but as you move towards the coast the wind should keep them at bay. Bring some DEET and a head-net.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Alaska Geographic

Naturalists Guide to the Arctic by E.C. Pielou

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

Caribou & the Barren-Lands by George Calef

Fifty Years Below Zero by Charles Brown

More Alaska reading available at 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