The Far North & Arctic Alaska Float Trips

Its Boundaries

Lying above the Arctic Circle, and flowing north from the Brooks Range Mountains, these rivers lie in the National Petroleum Reserve, the Arctic Slope and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

What It’s Like

The Far North rivers all lie in the less forested permafrost zones, and have a very short summer season; winter weather begins as early as mid-September.

During spring, hundreds of thousands of caribou migrate to this area, just as the rivers and their surrounding plains fill with migratory and nesting birdlife—such as peregrine falcons, rough-legged hawks and golden eagles. This is also the land of Dall's sheep, bears, wolverines, and even Musk Ox, whose populations were decimated in the past, but are rebounding now.

Most of the rivers, however, are locked in ice until mid-June. Throughout the summer, the rivers show daily fluctuations, as the snowfields and Aufeis melt during the day and flow into the valleys at night.

The rivers tend to have fairly easy runs, though, thanks to their old age and the flattening effects of geologic processes. They’re so old, in fact, that it’s not uncommon to find a Mammoth tusk sticking out of an eroding riverbank. This area also offers countless options for long hikes, with huge vistas as the midnight sun hovers overhead.

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Float Trips

The Far North Alaska Float Trips

Overview The Sheen­jek Riv­er begins in a near arc­tic envi­ron­ment and trav­els hun­dreds of miles into the sub­arc­tic, flow­ing a souther­ly route out of the Roman­zof Moun­tains, with­in Alaska’s Brooks Range. It car­ries a Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er dis­tinc­tion and offers sev­er­al options for extend­ed trips into a vast wilder­ness. The great­est dis­tance one can trav­el is about 290 miles from its head­wa­ters to the town of Fort Yukon along the…  ...more

Overview The Por­cu­pine Riv­er begins in the vast reach­es of inte­ri­or Cana­da in the Ogilvie Moun­tains and trav­els 300 miles of Cana­di­an water­way and 200 miles of Alaskan water­way, to where it joins the Yukon Riv­er near Fort Yukon. It is a Class I wilder­ness trip that is suit­able for any­one com­fort­able with camp­ing in mos­qui­to and bear coun­try and flows through the bore­al for­est of spruce, birch, poplar and wil­low. It has head­wa­ters that join…  ...more

Overview The Noatak Riv­er flows through the largest undis­turbed water­shed in North Amer­i­ca and is list­ed as an Inter­na­tion­al Bios­phere Reserve as well as hav­ing a Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er sta­tus. It starts in the dra­mat­ic, granitic, Endi­cott and Schwat­ka Moun­tains in the Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park of the Brooks Range, flow­ing along at a leisure­ly pace in a west­er­ly direc­tion for 300 miles, then turn­ing to the south for anoth­er 100…  ...more

Overview The Marsh Fork is a trib­u­tary of the Can­ning Riv­er, an arc­tic riv­er that forms the west­ern bound­ary of the Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge and flows through the dra­mat­ic Phillip Smith Moun­tains and past the Franklin Moun­tains. The trip we describe is a 35-mile sec­tion of the Marsh Fork and a 5‑mile stretch of the Can­ning Riv­er to the first take­out option that is a grav­el strip at Plunge Creek. The Marsh Fork requires some Class…  ...more

The Trip Drain Creek to the Gorge: 16 miles The upper sec­tion is all shal­low braids where the riv­er winds its way through the British Moun­tains, an area of beau­ti­ful lime­stone cliffs rich with fos­sils. This is an area of some of the best high ridge hikes that are acces­si­ble from most camps. There are sev­er­al good camp­sites that are just down­riv­er of the land­ing strip mak­ing it fair­ly easy to launch the same day if there is another…  ...more

The 95-mile long Ivishak Riv­er flows north, through the Philip Smith Moun­tains and the north­ern foothills of the Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, to join the Saga­vanirk­tok Riv­er on the coastal plain, 50 miles south of Prud­hoe Bay. Fed by glac­i­ers in the head­wa­ters area, the Ivishak starts at a lake in a glacial trough and flows quick­ly through rocky rif­fles for 8 miles, then forms a sin­gle chan­nel for a third of its length before becom­ing an…  ...more

The Hula Hula Riv­er is some­times referred to as the quin­tes­sen­tial arc­tic riv­er trip. It has a gen­er­ous amount of white­wa­ter and moun­tain scenery as well as sev­er­al days of the arc­tic coastal plains where the riv­er plunges through the often dis­cussed 10 02 Land, the calv­ing grounds for the Por­cu­pine Cari­bou Herd. This is the con­tro­ver­sial land that is part of the drill for oil on the calv­ing grounds” debate that we hear about. The trip…  ...more

A trip down the Firth Riv­er, with its head­wa­ters in Alas­ka and most of the riv­er locat­ed in Cana­da, is a riv­er trip with no par­al­lel. It is said to be Canada’s old­est riv­er hav­ing been a refugium where the ice of the last ice age nev­er exist­ed. As a result, its land­scape is rugged and crag­gy and its riverbed with­out glacial out­wash grav­els. Locat­ed with­in Ivvavik Nation­al Park in Canada’s north­ern Yukon, the riv­er lies across the migratory…  ...more

The Colville Riv­er ris­es in an iso­lat­ed area of the DeLong Moun­tains, at the west­ern end of the Brooks Range, north of the con­ti­nen­tal divide in the south­west­ern cor­ner of the Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve. It flows ini­tial­ly north, then gen­er­al­ly east through the foothills on the north side of the range, broad­en­ing into a wide tun­dra expanse as it receives the inflow of trib­u­taries that descend from the mid­dle Brooks Range. It is a major river…  ...more

The Can­ning Riv­er is an arc­tic riv­er that flows north out of the beau­ti­ful Phillip Smith Moun­tains and forms the west­ern bound­ary of the Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge and is an ide­al riv­er for small boats and for those not inter­est­ed in chal­leng­ing white­wa­ter. It is a wide riv­er val­ley formed by the glac­i­ers that once flowed down from the high peak of Mt Cham­ber­lain, the sec­ond high­est moun­tain in the Brooks Range. It is a mean­der­ing river…  ...more

Just north of Fair­banks, Alas­ka, flow­ing out of the low moun­tains and rolling hills west of Chena Dome and south of Mastodon Dome, is the Birch Creek Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er, one of only a few rivers of this sta­tus that is acces­si­ble by road and requires no fly­ing in or out to do the 126-mile sec­tion of Class I to III+ riv­er. A swift, shal­low stream, Birch Creek begins above its con­flu­ence with Twelvemile Creek and for the first 10…  ...more

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