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 wildflowers, and the air fills with bird song under 24-hour days. In August, plump berries and a riot of autumn colors paint the landscape.
We descend an exciting whitewater canyon, and continue north of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. We paddle along the edge of the North American continent, all a part of the pristine landscape of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Looking south across the Arctic coastal plain to the Brooks Range, spreading as far east and west as the eye can see, while looking north to the Arctic Ocean, we are, indeed, arctic explorers. The interface between land and sea is vibrant with life--caribou are out along barrier islands, wandering under 24 hours of daylight. Waterfowl nest gravel bars and tundra mounds, and seals surface among ice floes. Summer is an incredible rush, as wildflowers bloom, and the land quivers with life.
This trip is timed to catch the migration of the Porcupine caribou herd -- thousands of caribou stream down the valleys to the arctic coastal plain. We camp on barrier islands overlooking the icebound sea, and paddle along along a margin of sea ice and barrier islands, to a bay rich in birdlife. With luck, the caribou will be out on the coast with us. This is a strenuous 11-day trip for adventurers with prior camping experience. We paddle 70 miles down the Kongakut river, then in the estuaries formed by barrier islands along the coast.
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: We meet for dinner the night before the trip. The morning of Day 1, we meet at charter air company in Fairbanks. Fly to Arctic Village. Fly across the Brooks Range and across the North Slope to Demarcation Bay, near the border of Alaska with the Yukon Territory. headwaters of Aichilik. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Dayhiking. Inflate rafts and begin our journey down the Kongakut River. Camp on gravel bars surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Day hiking in the mountains. We may begin to see scattered groups of caribou, as well as the occasional wolf, fox, wolverine, musk ox. Camp on gravel bars. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Experience 24 hours of daylight and hike/paddle all night long if you'd like. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Paddling down the Kongakut; each day on the river, we may paddle from 8 to 15 miles. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Paddle day. Today is an exciting day of whitewater, as we descend a rocky canyon. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Paddling or hiking. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Hike up a mountain ridge overlooking the Arctic coastal plain. We can see into Canada's Yukon Territory, and far out to sea, across the ice-filled Beaufort Sea. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: We continue downriver another 14 miles to the edge of the foothills, and look back at the majesty of the Brooks Range. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Paddle the final miles out to the Arctic Ocean, and camp on barrier islands. Here, the sea is cold, but full of life. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Pick-up by bush charter plane and to Kaktovik, a tiny Eskimo village on the ocean. Charter flight back to Fairbanks. Celebratory dinner in evening. Includes: (B), (L).
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