A half dozen major rivers flow north through the Brooks Range and across the northern slope of the Arctic Refuge, carrying ancient glacial silt to the sea. For the Arctic connoisseur who loves hiking and wildlife, but doesn't want to backpack, this is the trip of a lifetime. The Kongakut tumbles through incised canyons and broad valleys lined with emerald peaks. On this premier river, we find the perfect mix of spectacular scenery, wildlife, and whitewater. Wolves, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, muskoxen, foxes, wolverines, and birds of prey all live here. In June and July the tundra bursts with wildlflowers, and the air fills with bird song under 24-hour days. In August, plump berries and a riot of autumn colors paint the landscape.
Each summer, the Porcupine caribou herd travels from wintering grounds in the Yukon Territory to calving grounds on the slim coastal plain between the mountains and the sea. We float the upper 43 miles of the river in time to experience the great migration, winding our way in paddle rafts down a braided watercourse, reaching the last foothills to ascend a dramatic domed mountain for a view of the arctic coastal plain and the Arctic Ocean just a dozen miles distant.
The Kongakut is a spectular river, offering all the best that Alaska's Arctic has to offer! Enjoy lively whitewater paddle rafting and incredible dayhiking in scenic Brooks Range wilderness, where the promise of thousands of caribou from the Porcupine caribou herd migrating down the valley to the Arctic coastal plain may keep you up all night long under the Midnight Sun. Paddle from the mountains to the foothills overlooking the Arctic Ocean, and enjoy 4 to 5 layover days with hiking and climbing, photography, and wildlife viewing as options.
This is a customizable tour, and there are many options for running the river (including canoe or raft) and hiking, with opportunities to lengthen the trip to 14 days.
Day 1: Evening get-together for dinner the night before the trip. Morning of trip on day 1, meet at charter air company in Fairbanks. Fly to Arctic Village. (L), (D).
Day 2: Dayhiking in the mountains. Inflate rafts and get ready to start down the river. Camp by the river, surrounded by mountain scenery. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Paddling on the Kongakut. Clear water and outstanding scenery; we may begin to see scattered groups of caribou, as well as the occasional wolf, fox, wolverine, moose. Camp by the river. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Another layover day. Great mountain hiking and following river valley up to its narrows. Look for grizzly bears and porcupine. Experience 24 hours of daylight and hike all night long if you'd like. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: On the river. Beautiful steep canyon walls, with deep pools on the river, filled with arctic char. Today we sample the whitewater and work as coordinated teams paddling through rock gardens and Class III whitewater. Suitable for any level of paddling experience. We teach you all you need to know, and our skilled raft captains carry us safely downriver. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Layover day at a side canyon. More great hikes. Hopefully, we have great vantage points from which to observe the caribou migration. Dall sheep are often found along the river, or at natural mineral licks just above the river. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Downriver again. The valley opens up and we can see the mountains gradually losing their steepness, as we approach the coast. Look for muskoxen along the gravel bars.We continue downriver, arriving at Caribou Pass, a wide valley which extends nearly into Canada, and which traditionally has been the migration route for up to 180,000 caribou each year. Camp overnight by the river. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Days 8-9: Today's layover includes a hike up a dome-shaped mountain to look out over the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean). This 5-hour round-trip hike is the highlight of many people's trip, as the views north, south, east and west are of seemingly endless wilderness. Camp overnight by the river. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Break down our boats and tents, and pack up to leave. Short morning hike to photograph caribou, ptarmigan, and arctic foxes. Fly back to Arctic Village and on to Fairbanks. Trip's end in Fairbanks. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
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USA Alaska Outdoor: Water Drifter Canoeing/Kayaking/Rafting Photography and Videography