GUIDED ALASKA Custom

a raft on the koyukuk river in gates of the arctic national park

Kobuk River Rafting

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DATES

Late July is ideal
region

REGION

Gates of the Arctic
price

TRIP COST

$$

Paddle and fish the Kobuk River in Gates of the Arctic National Park with us. The trip offers fun rafting, superb camping, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to fish for Kobuk River Sheefish. Explore the Brooks Range with our professional guides.

TRIP DETAILS

The Kobuk River begins in Gates of the Arctic National Park among the steep Arrigetch Peaks. From there, the Kobuk flows for over 300 miles along the southern flanks of the Brooks Range through forest and tundra country to the Chukchi Sea.

Our float plane lands us on the emerald green Walker Lake. After enjoying this enormous lake surrounded by mountains, we paddle through the Kobuk River canyon, sweeping downhill into a wild landscape of glacial moraines, bare bedrock and open, lichen-covered boreal forest.

We will see the river change over the course of our ninety-mile trip.  The upper river is swift through the forest with lots of little rapids and long stretches of canyons with several Class III rapids.  Hiking in the upper river is good – we climb peaks and broad, wind-scoured ridges just above tree line.

Downstream, the river spreads out into braided channels as the valley widens. The many sub-ranges of the Brooks Range break the serrated skyline of the northern forest as we flow downriver. Hiking on the lower river consists of strolling on open gravel bars or exploring high water channels that in the past have ripped water courses through the forest.

Late July is a choice time to be in the wilderness, and we’ll have up to two layover days to hike or fish or just hang out. Fall is not far off and we we can find huge patches of ripe blueberries.

The Kobuk has the best fishing of any Brooks Range river. It is home to arctic grayling, voracious northern pike, and the world famous Kobuk River sheefish. These big, enigmatic fish will be just arriving on the spawning grounds during our trip and make great eating.

We should see moose, beavers, red fox, black bears and grizzly bears if we keep our eyes peeled. We often see wolves, and it is not unusual to hear their howls rolling throughout the dark green forests. We may also see lynx and wolverine.

This is an active, ninety-mile river trip, with stretches of rapids, and steady paddling. No experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of an experienced and professional raft captain.

Last updated: September 24, 2020

Itinerary

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

Day 0

Meet your guide(s) in Fairbanks for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm.

Day 1

Fly from Fairbanks 250 miles north, across the Yukon River to the frontier settlement of Bettles. From here we transfer to a smaller floatplane and fly west another 100 miles along the southern flanks of the Brooks Range to Walker Lake. En route, watch for moose feeding in ponds and bears on the hillsides.

Day 2

We spend a layover day here, settling into our surroundings, hiking to a sweeping view of the route ahead, exploring the lake, and fishing for lake trout, grayling and northern pike.

Day 3 - 9

We’ll raft and hike and fish our way down the Kobuk. On each “moving day,” we’ll aim to make about 20 miles, roughly six hours of paddling. We will try and place camps where the river swings closest to the mountains for great hiking opportunities. There will be free time each and every day—after camp is pitched you’re free to do as you please. Your guide(s) will offer informal natural history hikes, but you are always welcome to strike off alone. And don’t forget the fishing!

Day 10

Weather permitting our plane picks us up for a flight along the Kobuk River, and on towards Fairbanks.

You run a first-class operation, and I just wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the 10 day rafting trip (what a place!), and I particularly wanted to to let you know that the guides did an outstanding and exemplary job. Not only were they both excessively competent in all the skills necessary to see us safely down the river, and not only did they provide every conceivable creature comfort (I mean, blueberry pancakes in the wilderness? What more could a man want!), but they proved to be the most pleasant and personable of companions, with seemingly inexhaustible reserves of patience, good humor, and zest.

- Chris, Maryland, USA

DETAILS

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Transportation beyond Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our equipment list

Rental equipment is available

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)

WEATHER & BUGS

Temperatures vary from the 70’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. However, this time of the year we can have lots of sunny mild weather too. Mosquitoes should be minimal but there may be some flies on warm evenings. Pack a bottle of DEET just in case.

RECOMMENDED READING

Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt

Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn

We Live in the Arctic by Constance Helmericks

Arctic Wild by Lois Crisler

People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes

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