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Canning River to the Arctic Coast

Canoeing on the Canning River from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Coast

Canoe from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Coast on this 10 day wilderness adventure. This is the best wildlife canoe trips in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; caribou, bears, wolves and arctic birds abound.

• Dates: We are not currently offering this trip on our schedule but would be happy to arrange a custom trip for your group. Or choose from our shedule of Alaska Canoeing trips.
• Region:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Mountains, foothills, coastal plain, and arctic coast.

Sketch of the Canning River Canoe trip…

For the past several years, thousands of caribou have spent the first weeks of July at the Canning River delta. This years' Canning River canoe trip, aims to combine a world-class wilderness canoe trip with a once in a lifetime wildlife spectacle. The trip will start in the majestic Brooks Range and paddle north to the Arctic Coast. With any luck, caribou and other wildlife should be around every bend in the river.


The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many claim it to be the most beautiful. The scenery is varied and enchanting. The river flows for over 130 miles through mountains and foothills, to the coastal plain, and finally to the arctic coast.

Its clear water begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged, and severely beautiful. As the Canning flows seaward, it bounds the west end of three sub ranges of the Brooks Range, the prosaically named “Third Range,” the "Shublik Mountains", and the "Sadlerochit Mountains".

Early July is a great time to paddle the Canning River. Days will be long and the weather likely warm (for the arctic) leaving us to watch the varied wildlife in peace. We should see grizzly bears, wolves, arctic and red fox, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, musk oxen, passerines, golden eagles, and an abundance of waterfowl. Fishing for grayling and arctic char can be good if the water levels are not too high. As we get towards the coast we can expect the temperatures to drop and the numbers of caribou to increase. Last July over 60,000 caribou aggregated on the Canning River delta for nearly a week.


The arctic coast is a rich and storied area. The Canning River delta is host to thousands of breeding birds each summer and there are numerous ancient and contemporary Eskimo sites along the coast. If conditions are right we can even take a walk on the sea-ice.


We’ll paddle about 90 miles of the Canning. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We will have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. There is no whitewater on the stretch we will be canoeing but there is often significant ice to avoid and the canoeing is always engaging.Your guide will provide canoe instruction, but some experience boating is important. As we approach the coast the weather will cool significantly and we may have to paddle against the wind.

Canning RIver ANWR
Canning RIver Canoe trip
Camping- Canning River Alaska

Canning to the Coast Itinerary

What follows is a general flow of events.

Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.



Day 0: Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm in Fairbanks


Day 1: Fly from Fairbanks to the tiny village of Coldfoot and then, north from Coldfoot, over the spectacular Philip Smith Mountains, to our put-in on on the Canning River. We will set-up camp and assemble our canoes in preparation for the next days' paddle.


Day 2 - 9: On paddling days we will spend about 5 hours on the water, stopping for short walks and a delicious lunch en route. There will be 3 or 4 "layover days" where we will leave camp set up and will explore the area on foot. The hiking is fantastic the entire length of the river and wildlife can be found at any time.


Day 10: Weather permitting, our pilot will arrive and fly us back across the Brooks Range to Coldfoot and then back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner and a shower.

Canning River and Arctic Ocean
Canning River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Canning to the Arctic Coast Details

Included in the price of the trip: Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.


Not included in the price of the trip: Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.


Weather & Bugs: Expect a variety of weather. July tends to be mild by arctic standards. Expect temperatures to range from in the 70's down to freezing. Snow is always possible. Bugs could be an issue in the mountains and foothills so DEET and a head-net are highly recommended. Bring an extra warm layer for the coast.


Suggested Reading: Seasons of Life and Land, Shubanker Banjeeri; We Live in the Arctic, Constance Helmericks; Kaktovik Subsistence, Wentworth; Arctic Wings, Mountaineers; Path of the Paddle, Bill Mason; More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.

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