Western Alaska Float Trips

Its Boundaries

This refers to the rivers flowing west towards the Bering Sea, into Kotzebue and Norton Sound. Beginning south of the Brooks Range, this region also includes the Noatak and Kobuk watersheds, the Seward Peninsula, and a region of the Yukon Delta, spanning from west of the Nulato Hills to approximately Nunivak Island.

What It’s Like

Many of the Western Alaska rivers begin in the majestic Gates of the Arctic National Park, where granitic peaks reach to the sky and the countryside offers vast moments of solitude. These rivers tend to be heavily forested, providing habitat for moose, caribou and bear.

Some of the rivers are sport-fishing destinations, too—namely, for the famed Sheefish, which run up the rivers to spawn each year. Some other interesting facts about the area:

  • Many of the rivers flowing into Kotzebue Sound are arctic-like, with permafrost features and vast wilderness areas, but they flow west instead of north.
  • The Noatak is known as the largest wilderness biosphere in the country.
  • The rivers of the Kobuk drainage have long attracted river villages, and still offer great opportunities to meet local subsistence people.


Outfitter & Guide: Aniak Air Guides has provided outfitting and guides for floats in Western Alaska since 1995. Their packages include all gear except your sleeping bag and food. Each trip begins with a flight over the river you plan to float to gain you bearings, and a mid-trip flyover to check in with your group as you float the river. A guide can be booked for an additional fee.

Show Map

Float Trips

Western Alaska Float Trips

Overview The Wild Riv­er is not as wild as the coun­try around it. In fact, it is one of the best fam­i­ly float trips that is avail­able to those who want a dose of wilder­ness that is far from the secu­ri­ty of the neigh­bor­hood watch group. It is a 63-mile trip from where it heads in a lake nes­tled in a love­ly forest­ed val­ley to where it joins the Koyukuk Riv­er and flows past the town of Bet­tles, and is eas­i­ly float­ed in 6 days time. It is a Class I…  ...more

Overview The Squir­rel Riv­er is a very clear, small vol­ume arc­tic riv­er flow­ing south out of the foothills of the Baird Moun­tains to where it joins the Kobuk Riv­er at the vil­lage of Kiana. This is an easy float and well suit­ed to fam­i­lies or begin­ner pad­dlers that are com­pe­tent wilder­ness campers. There is good hik­ing in the upper moun­tain­ous region and good fish­ing all along the way. After August, water lev­els become low and the upper…  ...more

Overview The Salmon Riv­er, a des­ig­nat­ed Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er, locat­ed in the Kobuk Riv­er Nation­al Park is a clear water­way with excep­tion­al scenic attrib­ut­es tra­vers­ing a vari­ety of veg­e­ta­tive zones as it flows south out of the Baird Moun­tains to its con­flu­ence with the Kobuk Riv­er. Gin clear and with­out any obsta­cles, it is a Class I riv­er for the 45 miles to where it joins the Kobuk Riv­er. There is an addi­tion­al 48 miles of…  ...more

Overview The Now­it­na Riv­er, or Novi as locals refer to it, is a non-glacial Class I riv­er with a short bit of Class II riv­er flow­ing north of the Kuskok­wim Moun­tains and is a Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er. Much of its length is with­in the Now­it­na Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, and for over 300 miles, this tea-col­ored riv­er slow­ly flows out of the Susu­lat­na Hills and Sun­shine Moun­tains, through wood­ed and hilly ter­rain, en route to its confluence…  ...more

Overview With­in the Brooks Range lies the Endi­cott Moun­tains and in the heart of these moun­tains is the Gates of The Arc­tic Nation­al Park and Pre­serve. Where the moun­tains rise to meet the sky the begin­nings of the North Fork of the Koyukuk Riv­er lie. This is a riv­er that begins in these moun­tains and even­tu­al­ly flows into the giant Yukon-Kusko delta region. But at its start are the 7000-foot high moun­tains of the Gates, with Mt Doon­er­ak the…  ...more

Overview The Nigu and Etivluk Rivers, begin­ning in Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park, are sel­dom-vis­it­ed riv­er val­leys in the high arc­tic at above 68 degrees north lat­i­tude and flow north out of the Brooks Range to join the Colville Riv­er. Begin­ning in the moun­tains, the rivers flow north from the Brooks Range, out of the east­ern edge of the DeLong Moun­tains into the Arc­tic foothills through rolling hills and tun­dra. Both rivers car­ry small…  ...more

The upper Kobuk Riv­er tra­vers­es a wide, for­est-cov­ered val­ley with sweep­ing views from the riv­er of near­by moun­tains. From its start at Walk­er Lake the riv­er is in the Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Pre­serve and it has sev­er­al Class IV chal­lenges as well as miles of Class I riv­er. A wilder­ness envi­ron­ment exists down­stream to approx­i­mate­ly the Pah Riv­er area. Fur­ther down­riv­er, the Kobuk is a major trav­el cor­ri­dor for local inhab­i­tants and…  ...more

The Kil­lik Riv­er begins in the north­ern por­tion of Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park and flows north 135 miles to where it joins the Colville Riv­er at what is known as the Kil­lik Bend. There is a 105-mile and a 90-mile sec­tion of riv­er acces­si­ble to rafters and makes for a good 7 to 10 day trip. The riv­er starts in the Endi­cott Moun­tains, in the region of Sur­vey Pass at about GPS67 degrees and W 46.5 min­utes, and flows through a broad,…  ...more

The John Riv­er is a clas­sic stretch of arc­tic riv­er: sceni­cal­ly spec­tac­u­lar, clear with good fish­ing, great hik­ing in the upper reach­es, no dan­ger­ous sec­tions of riv­er and lots of wildlife view­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. It flows swift­ly, south out of the arc­tic inte­ri­or through Anak­tu­vuk Pass into the rugged Endi­cott Moutains and rep­re­sents a path from the Inu­it cul­ture of the north to the Athabaskan cul­ture of the forest­ed inte­ri­or. To the north,…  ...more

The Aniuk Riv­er begins in the moun­tains north­west of Howard Pass, an easy pass full of lakes and was a tra­di­tion­al path­way for migrat­ing ear­ly native cul­tures. The riv­er flows south­west­er­ly for 80 miles to its con­flu­ence with the Noatak Riv­er. It is a small, clear water stream with numer­ous rocky rapids. For any­one want­i­ng to do the Noatak Riv­er, yet want an alter­nate, more remote start­ing place, this is an option and tra­vers­es a rarely…  ...more

The Ambler Riv­er is a small, clear riv­er with numer­ous small rocky rapids in its upper reach­es and flows out of the Schwat­ka Moun­tains of the west­ern Brooks Range. It has an 80-mile stretch of riv­er to where it joins the Kobuk Riv­er near the town of Ambler with 15 miles of rocky rapids in a sin­gle chan­nel at the start, 35 miles of braid­ed chan­nels in its heav­i­ly forest­ed mid­dle region and, final­ly, anoth­er 30 miles of sin­gle chan­nel all the…  ...more

The Alat­na Riv­er is a fed­er­al­ly des­ig­nat­ed wild and scenic riv­er that lies, par­tial­ly, with­in the bound­aries of The Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park. It orig­i­nates in the cen­tral Brooks Range and flows through the Endi­cott Moun­tains. It flows past Cir­cle Lake, has beau­ti­ful views of the Arrigetch Peaks and even­tu­al­ly flows through the Help­me­jack Hills. The low­er sec­tion of the riv­er flows in a SSE direc­tion through the Alat­na Hills to its…  ...more

Expert Advice