Kokolik River- Caribou Canoe
The Premiere Caribou Viewing and Wildlife Canoe Trip in Arctic Alaska
Our signature wildlife trip in the remote western Brooks Range. Canoe with the 300,000 strong western arctic caribou herd and enjoy some of the best birding in Arctic Alaska.
• Dates: June 14 through 23, 2014
The 2013 trip is full and with just 2 spots left on the 2014 trip NOW is the time to sign-up.
Sketch of the Kokolik River Canoe trip…
In the far northwest corner of Alaska near the Chukchi Sea is a seldom-traveled river called the Kokolik. We consider it the best canoeing river in Alaska.
For 4 out of 5 years our Kokolik river trips have seen tens of thousands of caribou swimming the river. We also regularly see bears, wolves and even wolverines on this fantastically remote canoe trip. If your interest is wildlife, this is the trip for you.
Starting from its mountain headwaters, we will paddle north and west toward the ocean through range after range of sweeping ridges and steeply folded valleys. This is rich country and home to Alaska’s largest herd of caribou. At last count the Western Arctic Herd numbered more than 380,000 animals.
We have timed this trip in hopes of witnessing this magnificent herd move through the area after calving. Not only does this area support enormous numbers of caribou, but it also hosts a great diversity of other wildlife. Caribou herds are attended by an assortment of predators and scavengers, namely brown bears, wolves, and the fabled wolverine. Musk oxen can be seen feeding in the willows of the river terraces. The Utukok Uplands through which the river flows has the highest density of wolverines in the state.
Bird watching in the area can be spectacular. Asian bird species such as bluethroats and northern wheatears can be seen. Jaegers are ubiquitous and bristle-thighed curlews can be found on the rocky ridge lines. On our last foray to the Kokolik River, we saw golden eagles, gyrfalcons and rough-legged Hawks nesting along the river.
Hiking along the Kokolik River is wonderful. There are seemingly endless ridges running perpendicular to the river where the footing is good and the views are unbelievable. While not a land of dramatic peak ascents and white water, this is a place of wildlife, beauty and long vistas. This is the best wildlife trip in arctic Alaska.
See a client's slideshow from the 2011 trip.
Kokolik River (Caribou) Canoe Itinerary
What follows is a general flow of events.
Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
June 13: Pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue at 6 pm
June 14: Our trip begins with a flight over the Noatak River and into the Brooks Range. We fly on and on, watching the world’s largest terrestrial wilderness pass below us. We will land on a gravel island in the Kokolik River. After unloading the plane and pitching camp we will have nothing but time to explore this pristine area.
June 15: Assemble the boats and head downriver. The upper Kokolik valley hosts not only an abundance of wildlife, but an abundance of fossil life. Coal beds can be reached from the river and marine and terrestrial fossils abound. The river carves its way through the mountains, hugging first the east bank, and then the west. Gravel and sand bars fill the broad floodplain valley. We will only paddle 10 or so miles of this clear river on our first day. Our priority will be to make sure everyone feels safe and confident in the boats.
June 16- 22: We will mix paddling days with hiking days. We have some miles we must cover but the schedule allows ample time for exploration on foot and leisure time in camp. The river traverses first one mountain range and then another. We will have the opportunity to ascend some of these broad colorful ridges. As we travel north the river grows from a large creek to a meandering river. There are obstacles to avoid but for the most part we can devote our attention to scenery and wildlife. The river cuts through many small sub-ranges of the Brooks Range. In between each of these ranges are broad valleys where you feel as if you could be swallowed by the sky.
June 23: At a gravel bar near Avingak Creek we will wait for our pilot and then fly back to Kotzebue. Shower!
Kokolik River (Caribou) Canoe Details
Included in the price of the trip: Transportation beyond Kotzebue, 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: Temperatures vary from the 70's to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. However, this time of the year we generally have lots of sunny weather. Strong, cold north winds and fog off the Arctic ice pack are not unusual. There could be bugs so bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent.
Suggested Reading: Being Caribou Karsten Heuer; Land of Extremes, Alex Huryn; People of the Noatak Clair Fejes; Caribou and the Barren Lands George Calef; Ordinary Wolves Seth Kantner; Alaska Wilderness Robert Marshall; Last Light Breaking Nick Jans; Arctic Wild Lois Crisler; Path of the Paddle, Bill Mason. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.