Raft from the peaks of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean on the little traveled and raucous Jago River. This rafting trip has it all: day hikes to glacier views, whitewater rafting, arctic wildlife, spring wildflowers, and even a walk to the Arctic Ocean. Traverse the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on this rarely traveled gem of a river. We have not run this trip in years, and are excited to offer it again.
From the glaciated, 9,000 foot peaks of the Brooks Range to the windswept Arctic Ocean, this 11 day rafting adventure explores the great variety of the Arctic Refuge. There is no better way to experience the grandeur of the region than on a river trip. We start with several days of paddling and hiking in the mountains, then paddle the canyon’s Class IV rapids, before spilling into the foothills. Two more days of nonstop Class II rapids take us to the Coastal Plain, a wilderness region unlike any other—with stunning views and superb camping. Then we continue on through the river’s delta to the Arctic Ocean, where we make our last night’s camp next to the Arctic Ocean.
The beauty of this trip is in the diversity of landscapes and wildlife. High in the mountains Dall sheep dot the mountainsides and bears dig roots on the river flats. In the foothills we often see wolves hunting marmots or following caribou trails. The Coastal Plain is where we may see musk oxen, and we will keep our eyes peeled for arctic fox as we approach the coast. On this trip we also have good chances of seeing peregrine falcons, golden eagles, jaegers, plovers, and a great variety of other migratory birds.
Hiking in the mountains and on the tundra is excellent. Our travel schedule allows two layover days to hike the country, and plenty of free time each day. Our first hike will be high in the mountains where Dall sheep graze and glaciers carve dramatic ridge lines. As we emerge from the higher peaks we will stop and hike among the wildflowers with views of the mountains behind and the sprawling Coastal Plain downriver. As we approach the coast, waterfowl abound and we have good chances to see species like arctic fox. The hiking opportunities are limitless – from easy ambles up the valley, to all day peak ascents. Group day hikes will be tailored to your interests and abilities.
The Jago is a challenging and dangerous river to paddle and participants must be prepared to help negotiate the rapids. There are no “passengers” on this trip. At normal water levels the canyon section is Class IV, technical and busy, and we should be able to run the canyon section in a single day. If the water levels are too high and the river is unsafe to run, significant effort may be required to portage sections of the river or the paddling portion of the trip may need to end above the canyon where we would base camp, hike and enjoy the mountains. At low water there may be some pushing and pulling of the rafts to get through boulder gardens and other obstacles. Because of the unique hazards on this river, we will provide and wear dry suits. On a wilderness trip like the Jago, one never knows what conditions we may face nor what opportunities might arise. This is the nature, and the honor, of wilderness travel.
Last updated: March 26, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Pre-trip meeting with your guides in Fairbanks at 4 pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River, the Arctic Circle, and the Brooks Range, to the headwaters of the Jago River. We’ll make a comfortable camp, have a good dinner, and watch the sun refuse to set! Welcome to the arctic! We can climb a small hill for a lovely view of the valley ahead. There are few places in the Arctic Refuge as beautiful as our camp this first night.
We’ll paddle and hike our way down the Jago River, allowing for two or three layover days depending on water levels. We’ll take a layover in the mountains, another on the Coastal Plain, and if we make it through the canyon smoothly we can take another layover at the coast. On days when we paddle we encounter a wide variety of conditions from steep canyons to expansive plains. Each day is an adventure as we travel north across the refuge.
Awake this morning at the northern edge of the continent. Weather permitting, we get a quick flight to the Eskimo Village of Kaktovik and then a longer flight back south across the Brooks Range, the Arctic Circle, and the Yukon River to Fairbanks arriving late in the day. Time to change your socks!
We had great guides and traveling companions, and were fortunate to see lots of caribou, bears, and other wildlife. The variety of scenery and adventure was great, even dragging the rafts through the mud on the delta was strangely fun. We’re really glad the trip went all the way to Arctic Coast. Great to have the library and spotting scope.
Round-trip charters from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, drysuits, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild
Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list
Gratuity for guide(s)
The weather can vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures can range from the 30s to 80s even in a single day. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get lots of sunny weather in the summer season. “Bug season” is likely to start during our trip, so bring along a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent. Better safe than sorry.