Last updated: November 22, 2021
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at 4 pm at the Arctic Wild World Headquarters.
Fly 200 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabascan village of Arctic Village. From there, we board a smaller plane and fly through the Brooks Range to a river bar alongside the Kongakut River. We’ll likely paddle a couple of miles to a perfect campsite. Tonight, take a hike, and settle into your surroundings. The sun won’t set!
June 9 - 10
Our trip starts just 10 miles from the Continental Divide where the Kongakut bubbles from deep springs in limestone gravel, ancient and clear water, moving steadily to the Arctic Ocean. Above the gravels is the green and brown of spring tundra and above that the darker bedrock layer upon layer stair-steps leading to five and six thousand foot peaks. We will spend alternate days paddling the clear water and hiking the rocky ridges, camping in limestone grottos and always searching for wildlife.
June 11- 13
The river was small where we began, almost small enough to wade across in the shallows but now it gains force, bigger and bigger as water is carried into it by a dozen tributary valleys. The grey cliffs and emerging leaves are brilliant in the spring sun and the willows are full of bird song.
About mid-way down the river small canyons and meandering braids gain focus and force as the Kongakut moves through harder layers of rock and enters a deep canyon with grand boulders on the banks and mid-river. We will carefully negotiate the “busy” boulder strewn canyon rapid and then back paddle hard as the kongakut pushes into sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet from the water. The boating is exciting and fun. The scenery is truly spectacular!
Below the canyon is a favorite campsite with several great hikes into the high country and a fishing hole which often feeds us handsomely.
On rafting days we’ll spend about 5 hours traveling with frequent stops to watch animals, inspect a curious site, or if cold, just to warm-up. We’ll also take a nice long lunch stop and often we take a short stroll after lunch to explore. Or if we explored under the mid-night sun the previous day, we may enjoy a nap on the soft tundra in the mid-day sun.
June 14 - 15
As we travel, we see the many faces and moods of the Kongakut. Sometimes we pass through great fields of auf eis (ice that builds up as the river freezes layer upon layer during the winter). In the spring the river carves through the auf eis and we float past frozen blue walls of ice five to ten feet high.
When we have traveled far enough we scout for the next camp with a view and settle into our new home for a night or two.
With the canyon behind us, the mountains are smaller but no less impressive. Spring will be advancing and the northern edge of the mountains tend to be warmer than the peaks bringing us into a region of incredible wildflowers at the peak of their bloom. The valley bottom may be covered in yellow and white while the hillsides are flecked with purples, blues and the pale yellow of Arctic Poppies. A staggering abundance of flowers!
From each camp we can explore our surroundings – quiet cottonwood glades, small waterfalls, flowery willow forests, and jutting outcrops above the river make for great hiking destinations.
We will plan to enjoy three layover days on this trip. At each camp, we have choices of easy climbs or harder, longer, higher hikes. The activities for the day are tailored to your desires and interests. With a small group and knowledgeable and attentive guides each hike/ stroll is a unique adventure full of learning, challenge and with luck wildlife sightings.
On the last layover day, at the very northern edge of the Brooks Range, will hope to hike to a sweeping view of the Arctic Coast and the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean stretching off to the curved horizon.
Pack-up early (or skip sleeping entirely and enjoy the 24 hour sunshine of the Arctic) and paddle the last 2 miles to the sand-bar that serves as an airstrip.
Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive around noon to fly us back to Fairbanks. We’ll re-cross the Brooks Range, the Arctic Circle and the Yukon River.
If you are continuing downriver on our Kongakut to the Coast trip, spend the day hiking and preparing for the next leg of our adventure. We may fly upriver a couple miles so the next group can see the wildflowers too.