Caribou and Dunes – Sprong Custom

GUIDED ALASKA Private

Caribou and Dunes – Sprong Custom

DATES

June 19, 2023 - June 23, 2023

REGION

Western Brooks Range and Kobuk Valley National Park

TRIP COST

$9,200/ person. Party of 2

calendar

DATES

June 19, 2023 - June 23, 2023
region

REGION

Western Brooks Range and Kobuk Valley National Park
price

TRIP COST

$9,200/ person. Party of 2

This trip aims to show you the best of Northwest Alaska by spending 3 nights in the western Brooks Range where we hope caribou will be migrating and 1 night in Kobuk Dunes.

TRIP DETAILS

Because Arctic Alaska is so vast and the caribou vary their route from year to year, it can be difficult to plan a trip to see this wildlife spectacle. Their movements are affected by snow depth, temperature, insect abundance and wind direction to name just a few factors. But after years of guiding in the Arctic we know a few of their favorite haunts and have had good luck finding them in late June on the tundra of the Western Brooks Range.

Before your arrival we will be gathering information from pilots, biologists and others in the field. On the day your trip begins, together with our bush pilot, we will decide on the best place to set up our base camp. One summer we had 40,000 caribou pass by our camp for three days! Being around that many caribou also means we have an excellent chance of seeing large predators such as wolves, bears and wolverines, even Golden Eagles, soaring overhead looking for caribou calves to eat.

While we never could guarantee that we will hit the big migration, this trip will give you your best shot. The focus of this trip is to see large groups of caribou, but you will also be in one of the most beautiful places on the planet!

The wildflowers will be in full bloom, the hundreds of species of migrating birds will have returned and we hope the mosquitoes will have not yet hatched. It’s a wonderful time to be in the Arctic with or without the caribou.

With 24 hours of daylight and nearly limitless wilderness all around, there is no end to the exploration we can do. Each day we will head off in a different direction seeking wildlife and vistas. How far you choose to hike each day is largely up to you, but the more you can hike, the more wildlife you are likely to see.

There is an old saying in the Arctic which translates into “No one knows the way of the wind or the caribou” which hints at the difficulty of finding caribou. There are certainly no guarantees on a trip like this, but the search is always rewarding no matter the outcome.

Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited park in the America. Though nearly totally unknown, the park is full of wildlife and scenic wonders. Kobuk Dunes is like the Sahara but with wolves, moose and cranes. Onion Portage is an archaeological district with evidence of human use for the past 12,000 years! The Kobuk River is a magnificent river rich with wildlife and broad vistas.

On the forth day of our trip we will fly 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: April 25, 2022

Itinerary

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

June 18

Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting this evening in Kotzebue.

June 19

Fly north from the Inupiat village of Kotzebue on the Chukchi Sea in search of caribou. We won’t know exactly where they are, and there are no guarantees with wildlife, but typically they are in large groups north of the Brooks Range in an area of broad ridges and long vistas this time of year.

We will land on a gravel bar or ridge-line and set-up camp. With luck there will be caribou within sight of camp as we pitch our tents and settle in.

June 20 -21

A full day to explore and search for wildlife. If caribou are in the area we will likely spend most of the day quietly watching them while they walk the ancient caribou trails their hooves have etched into the tundra. If there aren’t many caribou to be seen nearby, we will hike the ridges scanning for animals. Usually the effort pays-off.

June 22

Pack-up and await the arrival of the pilot. Weather permitting you’ll fly back across the Brooks Range and land in the heart of Kobuk Dune in Kobuk Valley National Park.

Once camp is pitched we have the rest of the day and night (happy solstice) to explore the dunes, springs and sand-flats.

June 23

Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us back to “civilization”. We plan to arrive back in Kotzebue by early evening. Empty sand from boots and take a shower.

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

DETAILS

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Transportation starting and ending in Kotzebue

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

Safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list

Gratuity for guide

WEATHER & BUGS

Temperatures vary from the 70’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. However, this time of the year we generally have lots of sunny weather. There will be bugs, so bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent.

RECOMMENDED READING

Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner

Seasons of Life and Land by Shubanker Banjeeri

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!"
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Eileen - Canning River