Noatak Canoe and Kobuk Dunes – Stanley 2023


Noatak Canoe and Kobuk Dunes – Stanley 2023


July 27, 2023 - August 04, 2023


Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks


$9,500/ person. Minimum of 5, maximum of 8 participants.



July 27, 2023 - August 04, 2023


Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks


$9,500/ person. Minimum of 5, maximum of 8 participants.

Join Arctic Wild on a wilderness canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park canoeing and hiking along the Noatak River. We follow this exceptional canoe trip with a couple nights in Kobuk Valley National Park’s Kobuk Sand Dunes. Enjoy the best of two of America’s most remote National Parks.


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.

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 grace the tundra with the last of the summer’s blooms.

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 canoe trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn 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 the end of each day. Towards the end of the trip the river picks up speed and we get to ride the current to the takeout. Previous experience is not required to paddle canoes, instruction is provided by guides.

After the paddling trip, we will fly southwest from Gates into Kobuk Valley National Park and arrive at the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, a sea of sand in the arctic wilderness. The dunes were formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region and deposited sand south of the Kobuk River in an enormous mountain basin.

This is the largest dune complex in arctic North America and it is both fascinating and beautiful. The eastern side of the dunes is more stable and vegetated. There are ponds, wolf dens, and fingers of spruce forest which extend in to the dunes. On the leeward side, the dunes get larger and larger with sand ridges over 200 feet tall! There are vast areas where a hiker cannot see the edge of the dunes anywhere and one expects to see a camel or caravan until a sandhill crane flies by with its prehistoric sounding call, or a moose trots off over the sand. On the west side of the dunes, sand blows off the sand ridges and into the woods and creek. It is easy to visualize how the forest is being swallowed by the advancing dunes.

Last updated: September 21, 2022


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

July 26

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

July 27

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.

July 28 - August 1

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.   If traveling conditions are good we will have one or two 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.

August 2

Clean up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll rendezvous with our pilot mid-day for the flights south and into Kobuk Valley National Park where we land right in the sand dunes, transported to a wildly different landscape. Pitch camp and explore.


August 3

A full day to enjoy the dunes. The sand constantly shifts and swirls in the wind. There are springs coming right out of the sand and great expanses where nothing seems to live. The hiking is soft in places but great distances can be covered if you are so inclined. Swim in the ponds, look for wolf dens, slide down the tallest dunes, or just stretch out your beach towel and parasol.

August 4

Weather permitting, a plane from Kotzebue arrives and shuttles us further west to Kotzebue on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Time to shake the sand out of your boots and to take a shower.

Logistical Note: This trip starts in Fairbanks and ends in Kotzebue. Your flights to and from Alaska will need to get you to Fairbanks on the the 26th of July and should depart Kotzebue on the 5th of August. You will need to find lodging in Fairbanks on the 26th and in Kotzebue on the 4th. Arctic Wild can ship a small bag of clothes/ personal effects from Fairbanks to Kotzebue so that you have your belongings at trip’s end.

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.

- Rochelle , Missouri, USA



Chartered “Bush” flights starting in Fairbanks and ending in Kotzebue

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


Non-camp lodging (Fairbanks nor Kotzebue)

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 are likely and snow is possible, but we can get sunny weather this time of the year too, especially in Kobuk Valley.  Mosquitoes could be a problem on this trip as could biting flies. Traveling with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net is prudent.


Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt

We Live in the Arctic by Constance Helmericks

Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn

A Thousand Trails Home by Seth Kantner

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!"
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Eileen - Canning River