Charley River Rafting

Charley River Rafting


May 31, 2025 - June 08, 2025


Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve





May 31, 2025 - June 08, 2025


Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve



Rafting the Charley is a journey of contrasts. Starting high on the tundra where the river is little more than a creek, we descend, through the canyon and into the boreal forest. Below lies the broad silty Yukon River, rich with history and offering some of the best campsites anywhere.


A four-seater plane will land you, your trip mates and guide(s) on a gravel landing strip in the upper Charley River, a remote Wild and Scenic River in the pristine Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The National Park Service created this park because of its rich human history and its stunning natural beauty.  This trip is your chance to experience this little-known gem.

The Charley River flows first through an open valley where far away mountain peaks are over 6,000 feet high.  The river valley then narrows and the river has cut its way through the bedrock, flowing swiftly past bluffs and cliffs. We will enjoy navigating through boulder strewn rapids as the river plummets towards the Yukon Valley. After leaving the mountains, the current slows and we will have more time to stare through the crystal clear water to the colorful pebbles below and to study the moss-filled woods in hopes of seeing wildlife. After enjoying this Wild and Scenic River for over 100 miles we will paddle out to the mighty Yukon River.

The adventure is far from over when we reach the Yukon River. Along the Yukon we will see tall bluffs with nesting raptors, car-sized chunks of ice left stranded on the sandbars, historic cabins, and wildlife such as grizzly bears, lynx, and moose. The Yukon is huge even here in its upper reaches, both its size and speed are impressive.

Spring is a magical time this far north. Birds arrive from around the globe and the landscape turns green before our eyes. Animals are everywhere in motion making the most of the brief summer and endless daylight. We expect some rain this time of year and in fact hope for water to make the paddling easier and more fun. But this tends to be the clearest and sunniest time of the year and we can expect some glorious weather, especially on the Yukon.

The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has one of North America’s highest densities of nesting Peregrine Falcons. You may also see caribou, moose, wolves, black and grizzly bears and a wide variety of waterfowl and songbirds (including Northern Shrikes and Rusty Blackbirds).

This is a moderately difficult river trip, with stretches of Class II and III rapids and steady paddling, in total 150 miles. The upper river can be very shallow and we often have to wade and pull the boats through rock gardens and over shallows. 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, so general fitness and a good attitude are key.

Last updated: June 12, 2024


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

May 30

Meet with your guide at 4 pm for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.

May 31

Fly into a gravel landing strip in the headwaters of the Charley River. Spend the afternoon hiking through the alpine tundra and settling into the country.

June 1

Spend the morning inflating our rafts and preparing for the river. After a river safety briefing we will set out on the clear and beautiful Charley River.

June 2 - 5

Paddle down the Charley, navigating rapids and enjoying the country. Though we have many miles to cover, we will make time for one non-travel day to explore on foot and enjoy the quiet and solitude of this spectacular area.

June 6 - 7

Broad and strong, the Yukon flows between forested banks and rocky bluffs. As the river nears the village of Circle the valley broadens to the horizon and our world becomes one of just sky, water and gravel.

June 8

Once we arrive by raft to the Yukon River village of Circle, pack our gear, and climb in a van for the four hour drive to Fairbanks. Time for a hot shower!

I genuinely feel, having traveled in South America, Australia, and Africa to remote villages and lodges, huts etc. that Alaska was the most foreign I have ever felt. And I am glad to have experienced it.
One of my biggest impressions is that I am so so very glad we had Arctic Wild as our outfitters. Michael Wald and his team were terrific and well prepared. I can’t say enough about the attention to detail and the experience of them and especially our guide Nancy Pfeiffer. I talked with other guides and with other groups. After each conversation, (trust me, they were lengthy chats as we were on a gravel runway sitting on our packs…) I thought how lucky we were to be with Nancy and Arctic Wild.


- Linda, Washington, USA



Transportation beyond Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild



Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list.

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s).


Temperatures vary from the 80’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. Expect a few mosquitoes and biting flies in the woods but not on the river bars. Bugs shouldn’t be a problem this time of year but a bottle of DEET is prudent


Coming into the Country, John McPhee

Land Gone Lonesome, Dan O’Neil

Furs and Frontiers in the Far North, John Bockstoce

Interior Alaska – A Journey Through Time, Alaska Geographic Society

Ordinary Wolves, Seth Kantner

More Alaska reading is available from 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!"
client client client client client
Eileen - Canning River