Cruickshank – Kongakut

Cruickshank – Kongakut


August 21, 2025 - August 29, 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)


$9,400/ person, party of 5. $8,700/ person, party of 6.



August 21, 2025 - August 29, 2025


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)


$9,400/ person, party of 5. $8,700/ person, party of 6.

The Kongakut River is famous for dramatic mountain scenery, fun wilderness rafting and frequent wildlife encounters. We will paddle the Kongakut this August as summer gives way to fall and the river is teeming with fish. Autumn brings glorious yellow and crimson to the tundra and brilliant displays of the Aurora borealis overhead. The hiking from the river is varied and nearly endless and the paddling superb.


The Kongakut River winds through a breathtakingly gorgeous valley.  August is autumn at 70 degrees north latitude, and the tundra is crimson and gold. Peaks are receiving snow which is likely to stick until the following May or June. Great flocks of snow geese may be amassing on the Coastal Plain and wildlife is preparing for winter. From each night’s camp we can hike off to explore our surroundings – quiet cottonwood glades, small waterfalls, wildflower-rich willow forests and jutting outcrops above the river.

Wildlife is abundant on the Kongakut River in August. The big caribou migrations are in June, but even at the end of August there are still small bands of bull caribou roaming the Kongakut valley and ridges. In the upper reaches there are sure to be moose heading to their wintering grounds in the mountains. Dall sheep abound and can sometimes be seen right down by the river.

Bears should be fattening up on berries and wolves, though hard to see, are hunting throughout the area. We have in fact been seeing wolves fairly regularly on this trip in recent years. The land is full of wildlife, the sky streaked with birds and the river itself boasts one of the most reliable runs of arctic char (Dolly varden) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Some pools erupt with red and white flashes of breeding char when the rafts go by. They are fun and easy to catch if you are so inclined, and very delicious.

The Kongakut is a fast moving river with multiple braided channels.  The river is steady Class II, with a short (three-mile) canyon section with fun, Class III rapids.  No previous river experience is required for paddle rafting. Instruction is provided. But good fitness and an adventurous attitude make all wilderness trips more fun.

Last updated: February 14, 2024


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

August 20

Pre-trip meeting with your guide in Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.

August 21

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 Kongakut River.  Tonight, take a hike, and settle into your surroundings.

August 22- 28

Once we inflate the rafts and give a safety briefing we will launch in to the swift cold water.

On paddling days we spend about five hours on the water. This will allow lots of time for exploration, photography and a delicious picnic lunch. We run fun Class III rapids on several different days, and this entire stretch of river is exciting to paddle.

On each of the three layover days, we have choices of easy or harder, longer, higher climbs. Just before the last day or the trip, we will be able to hike to a sweeping view of the arctic coast and see the Arctic Ocean stretching off to the curved horizon. The fishing is great from every single place we camp.

August 29

Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us towards Fairbanks in time for a late dinner and warm shower.

I did not just have a good time I had a fantastic time.

Our guide was just wonderful. Lot’s of quiet patience, quiet expertise and a wonderful disposition, all of which made my Arctic Wild rafting experience down the Kongakut one of the most memorable of my lifetime.

- Joel, New York, USA



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 through Arctic Wild


Non-camp lodging

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.  It could be warm, but it is best to prepare for autumn weather. Temperatures will range from the 20s to 60s.  When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get plenty of sunny pleasant weather this time of the year too. Mosquito season should be over. Bring a little DEET just in case.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Alaska Geographic

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

Fifty Years Below Zero by Charles Brown

Midnight Wilderness by Debbie Miller

More Alaska reading is 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!"
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Eileen - Canning River