Alsek River Rafting
The Alsek is an international wilderness river flowing from southern Yukon Territory to the Gulf of Alaska. It is the 5th largest drainage on the west coast of the Americas and runs abreast of the largest non-polar ice field and highest coastal mountain range in the world. The Alsek spans 3 national parks, 2 of which are in Canada and 1 in the US and is part of the largest protected land area in the world, totaling nearly 8.5 million hectares of contiguous preserve.
The Alsek flows through the northern-most and southern-most limits of the geographical ranges of an estimated 53 species of mammals and 125 species of birds. The upper Alsek is home to the largest concentration of grizzly bears in Canada. Sightings of bear, moose, dall’s sheep and mountain goats are common.
We will paddle roughly 170 miles from the dry interior mountains of the Yukon to the lush rainforests of Alaska in 16 and 18 ft. oar-rafts. There are several very large rapids and we will wear dry suits at times. There are also several lake crossings and wind can be a challenge.
We allow for several layover days to accommodate inclement weather and to explore the surrounding forests, ridges and valleys. One of the many joys of this trip is observing the transition from the forests shaped by continental climate in the Canadian alpine to the coastal habitats shaped by the Gulf of Alaska.
Our Alsek rafting trip has a lot of variety, a little bit of whitewater and numerous wildlife sightings. As a true wilderness expedition it has challenges and the weather is not always our friend, but with the help of our seasoned guides this trip is suitable for those with a thirst for adventure and a reasonable level of personal fitness. Join us for the trip of a lifetime.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Day 0: Arrive in Haines, AK in time for our 4 pm pre-trip meeting. You will be staying at the Hotel Halsingland (included) where we will rendezvous for the orientation meeting. Meals on your own this day.
Day 1: 7:00 AM van departure up the Chilkat Valley and across the Canadian Border (You must have your passport) then to our put-in near the Yukon community of Haines Junction. It is a 3-hour drive to the Junction where we will eat lunch before beginning the final trek along a rough 4-wheel drive route to our launch site at Serpentine Creek. Depending on the weather we may camp at the put-in or push off for a camp down stream.
Day 2-3: Time to raft and look for bears. These first few days we pass through Kluane National Park and Preserve. This is grizzly bear and moose country so keep you cameras and binoculars handy. Time permitting we will take a layover day at Lowell Lake and hike Goatherd Mountain for a close up view of the resident mountain goats.
Days 4 – 6: Into glacier country. After crossing iceberg studded Lowell Lake we begin to pick up speed and volume. As the Lowell Glacier disappears behind us the river enters steeper and narrower terrain. Hanging glaciers and steep talus slopes abound as we near the biggest rapids of the trip. A quick stop to scout and don dry suits and we’re on our way through Lava North rapid and beyond. Next adventure is Blackadar Camp and the helicopter portage over Turnback Canyon.
7 – 9: Tatshenshini Confluence. Now the Alsek is huge, one of the largest rivers in the largest State. Thick with glacial silt and split into a multitude of braids, it is a maze of water often merging with a grey sky. Glaciers begin to dominate our views and we will plan for a layover day to hike to or on the ice.
Day 10-11: Alsek Lake is world unto itself. At the terminus of the Alsek and Grand Plateau glaciers, the miles-long lake is filled with freshly calved icebergs startlingly blue against the grey waters. We will paddle amongst the icebergs and listen to the active glaciers calve mountain-sized bergs into the lake before paddling across the lake and re-entering the current.
Day12: Dry Bay. From the fishing outpost of Dry Bay we catch a chartered plane to Yakutat, AK. Weather permitting you will arrive in Yakutat in time for the daily Alaska Airlines jet to take you to Juneau.
Note: This flight from Yakutat to Juneau (or Anchorage) has not been included in the trip price, as many prefer to book it along with other flight legs homeward.