South of the Brooks Range and north of the Alaska Range, this is the broad swath of the Koyukuk, Yukon and Tanana watersheds, east of the Nulato Hills region.
What It’s Like
The Interior rivers are of a different class entirely. Many are huge, offering thousand-mile journeys and carrying enormous amounts of fresh water to the sea.
The majority of the rivers flow from mountain to valley to lowlands, and then on to the Bering Sea. There are some vast salmon runs, but the fish around here are more likely caught in nets or in the big fish wheels near villages. It maybe just as well: many of these rivers are glacial in origin, making them cloudy and cold—and, as result, less accessible for fishing than the clearer, southwestern rivers. As a contrast, the non-glacial rivers around here actually seem warm by comparison.
Either way, solitude and wilderness are readily available around here, with many trips offering a great combination of exciting whitewater and mellow floating, as you travel through both wilderness and native culture.
The Interior Alaska Float Trips
Overview The Yukon River is such a giant; no words can accurately describe the scale of things along its more than 2000-mile length. There are sloughs running through large wooded islands that are bigger than most rivers, and if you need to be on one side of the river at a certain point, you better start many miles in advance getting to that side. Running out of the Canadian subarctic and across the entire breadth of Alaska to where its… ...more
Overview The Talkeetna River is, according to almost every guidebook or reference you may consult, the most classic, wilderness, whitewater trip in Alaska. Its remote location, steep, fast-water canyon, abundant fishing and wildlife viewing make it one of the true classics for sure. It requires a bush plane to fly into the Talkeetna Mountains where there are huge views of the highest peak in North America, Denali, and in the headwaters area… ...more
A major tributary of the Yukon River, the Fortymile is a clear water stream that has 6 main forks flowing east of the Mertie Mountains and north of the Tanana State Forest area, out of the Yukon-Tanana Uplands, not far south of the Arctic Circle. To the west of the Mertie Mountains is the Charley River and the mountain ridgeline is the boundary for the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve to the west. Both the Charley and the Fortymile are… ...more
The Chena River begins in the White Mountains and is fed by five tributaries, the North Fork, South Fork, West Fork, Middle (East) Fork and the Little Chena. All the forks empty into the Middle Fork, which is the main section of the Chena River. The spring-fed Chena River runs right through downtown Fairbanks and is a Class II river with many interesting features along its length. There are some designated campgrounds in a few locations. In… ...more
From the Tanana uplands and The Mertie Mountains above 64 degrees north latitude, the Charley River is a National Wild and Scenic waterway and flows northward about 108 miles to the Yukon River. It is often thought of as one of the premier wilderness whitewater trips of the state and flows through three distinct topographic regions – open upland valley, cliff bound river, and open floodplain – offering varied, and spectacular scenery as well… ...more
Beaver Creek National Wild and Scenic River has its headwaters in the White Mountains, north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The river flows west past the jagged limestone ridges of the White Mountains before flowing to the north and east, where it enters the Yukon Flats and joins the Yukon River. It is one of the few road accessible streams in Alaska with a Wild and Scenic designation. The first 127 miles of Beaver Creek were designated a National… ...more
The Chulitna River flows to the south out of a huge valley from Broad Pass, one of only two breaks in the Alaska Range Mountains, where the highway, the train, the geese, and the river, all pass on their way to Cook Inlet. It offers a chance for a float of 75 miles and can take as little as 3 days in kayaks but can be a nice 4 or 5‑day trip. Canoes and kayaks are fun on the upper but tippy on the lower section. There are three forks of the… ...more
The Nenana River, a glacial river, forms the eastern boundary of Denali National Park and is possibly the most popular river rafting destination in the state. It offers a variety of levels of difficulty and has a thriving commercial rafting industry that operates 2 hour, 4 hour and overnight trips for locals as well as out of state tourists.
The Gulkana River is an approximately 80-mile long river that can be done in 5 to 7 average length days. It is a National Wild and Scenic River and one of Alaska’s most popular whitewater river trips. It is an excellent fishing river trip, as well, with a large King Salmon run and lots of smaller sport fish to try for. The first three miles are, generally, Class II with 4 mph current and some Class III. The next 13 to 15 miles to canyon… ...more
The Happy River is a gem of an Alaska Range River. Located in a vast wilderness and draining the south slopes from Rainy Pass, and flowing into the much larger Skwentna River, it is a swift, rocky river of moderate to slightly above moderate difficulty. Kayakers find it an easy run, while it presents several challenges to rafting parties. In the upper valley the river is within a most gorgeous location with swift, continuous but small rapids, ...more
The Chatanika River, a Class II river, is a part of the Yukon River drainage and is a clear or lightly tannic stained rapid-runoff stream. It has its headwaters in the mountains of the northeastern portion of the Alaska Range and flows westward through valleys between summits and uplands for about four-fifths of its length before it enters Minto Flats, eventually joining the Tolovano River. It is most suited to small craft such as canoes or… ...more
Overview The Yanert River is a little known gem that is the largest tributary of the quite popular Nenana River, which forms the eastern boundary of Denali National Park. It flows rapidly through a braided glacial outwash plain that fills a section of the ancient Hines Creek Fault line, and marks the zone of collision between ancient and newer tectonic plates. There is a short but deep gorge and the river is only 20 miles in length but by… ...more
The best spot to put in is at Yellow Jacket Creek, about 20 miles from the Talkeetna Glacier, even though the gravel strip itself is not a favorite of some pilots. But groups do go there and it is where we recommend you go. By starting at this point you have good hiking in the upper alpine mountains.