Alaska rafting trips in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge allow you to take in great sweeps of the Alaska wilderness with relative ease. From the Kongakut River to the Charley River, Arctic Wild has the perfect Alaska rafting trip for you.
What to Expect from Our Rafting Trips
On our Brooks Range rafting trips we generally use 12 foot-long paddle-rafts. Each raft includes an Arctic Wild guide and either two or three paddlers. We plan our Alaska rafting trips for maximum wildlife viewing and scenery.
Generally our river trips are better suited for those seeking a wilderness experience rather than an adrenaline rush. If you are looking for an Alaska whitewater rafting trip,with Class II or Class III rapids, consider the Hulahula, or the Charley River trips.
On “travel days”, everyone works as a team to load and unload the rafts and maneuver safely down the river. Paddle-rafts allow every passenger to be actively involved in navigating and rafting the river. Some days may have challenging whitewater rafting but there is always ample time allowed for leisurely picnic lunches and exploration. Our Alaska rafting trips frequently include one, two, or three layover days, spent hiking, relaxing, or both.
How to Prepare for Alaska Rafting
No experience or training is necessary to enjoy an Alaska rafting trip, though being in decent shape physically will increase your enjoyment of the experience. Whether preparing for a float down the Kongakut River or one of our whitewater rafting adventures, we will provide you with advice on personal equipment, reading lists or anything else you need to make your Alaska adventure safe and fun.
The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many claim it to be the most beautiful. Our journey through the wilderness is designed to immerse you in the beauty of this exceptional area, introduce you to its varied wildlife, and to facilitate your learning about wilderness travel. The Canning offers excellent rafting and nearly endless hiking opportunities. Naturalists will delight in the diversity of wildlife and birds.
The Canning begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged and severely beautiful. As the river flows seaward, it bounds the west end of three sub-ranges of the Brooks Range, the prosaically named “Third Range,” the Shublik Mountains, and the Sadlerochit Mountains. By trip’s end the land is broad and the sky enormous. From a hill near the take out spot there is a view to the Arctic Ocean in good weather.
From each of our camps there will be time and opportunity for day hikes deeper into the mountains in search of wildlife. Other activities can include fishing for grayling and arctic char, making casts of tracks we find in the mud, searching out raptor nest on the cliffs near the river, or simply enjoying the quiet of the wilderness.
Wildlife encounters are difficult to predict, but in years past we have seen a great variety of wildlife on the Canning River. Sighting have included grizzly bears, wolves, arctic and red fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, musk oxen, wolverine and one year we saw a Polar Bear near the coast. For birds you can expect to see a host of passerines including some rarities like blue throats, wheatears and wag-tails. Raptors will be fledging and the young birds will be learning to hunt on their own. We may see golden eagles, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks, short-eared owls, and maybe even the snowy owl, known as “ukpik” in Inupiaq.
Though it is not apparent on the ground, the Canning is at a literal crossroads of conservation. The headwaters are protected as wilderness, but as we travel down river, we enter the famous 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area Congress has never been able to either permanently protect nor exploit for oil and gas.
We’ll paddle about 90 miles of the Canning, from near the headwaters of the Marsh Fork, nearly to the Coast. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We may have to drag the boats over shallow spots; we will have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. There is Class III white water at several points along the river. However, no experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guides for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.
Fly from Fairbanks to the Gwich’in settlement of Arctic Village, where we switch to a smaller plane and head further north, over the spectacular Philip Smith Mountains, to our put-in on on the Marsh Fork of the Canning River. We will set up camp and inflate our rafts in preparation for the next day’s float.
We will spend our time floating from the tiny headwaters of the Marsh Fork to the northern edge of the mountains. Along the way we will have as many as three layover days to enjoy day hiking, fishing, or just hanging around camp, enjoying the solitude and quiet. The hiking is fantastic the entire length of the river and wildlife can be found at any time. There are hard hikes and easy strolls from each camp. Only your imagination limits the adventures we can have. On our travel days we will paddle for about 6 hours. There is a bit of whitewater and lots of fast water but also plenty of stretches where we can watch the sky and scan the mountains for wildlife.
Pack our gear and await the arrival of our bush pilot, who will land on a long gravel bar. We will fly back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, See full equipment list
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Expect a variety of weather. Temperatures can range from in the 70’s down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs should be gone but bring some DEET just in case.