The Far North & Arctic Alaska Float Trips
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.
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