Kugururok River Rafting and Alaska Birding
Birding and Rafting in the Noatak National Preserve in Search of Grey-headed Chickadees
• Dates: We are not currently offering this trip but can arrange a custom trip for your group. Please contact us for details, or join us for our somewhat similar Spring Noatak Canoe Trips in June. See our trip schedule for all the options.
Sketch of the Kugururok Birding trip…
This 50-mile river rafting trip is designed to explore the great diversity of the western Brooks Range, with good chances for locating Gray-headed chickadees. This trip is for both serious birders hoping to see North Americas most difficult resident bird, and for wilderness enthusiast wanting to enjoy the myriad delights of the Brooks Range. Our professional guides can show you the best of the arctic, and with luck, a Gray-headed chickadee too.
Water levels permitting, we start our trip above the tree-line. We will have time to hike the high country where we should see northern wheatears, horned larks, American pipits, with a chance for a bristle-thighed curlew or Smith’s longspur. This is area is little explored for birds so there is a bit of mystery about what we may find. As the Kugururok descends in elevation the willow stands thicken and we are likely to find arctic warblers, bluethroats, and our special target, the gray-headed chickadee….
Once we reach the Noatak River for the final day of paddling, we enjoy the deep wide river and the endless sky above the trees. The rafting is engaging but easy and the boats allow us to cover ground with ease, granting us plenty of time and energy for bird watching.
The Noatak River watershed is an enormous expanse of rugged mountains and gently rolling tundra hills, with a thread of biologically rich riparian lakes and ponds running right down the middle. The Noatak’s entire watershed is protected within the Noatak National Preserve and the Gates of the Arctic National Park. It is internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site.
The Kugururok is a major tributary of the Lower Noatak. Its headwaters are along the arctic divide among poetically named mountains, Inaccessible Ridge and Echo Mountain.
This is a fairly easy river trip, but you can fish, hike, explore, and bird until you’re worn out. Both the Kugururok and the Noatak flow along with current enough to keep us moving, but if the wind blows opposite the current we will have to work to reach each day’s end. Previous rafting experience is not necessary.
Kugururok Rafting and Birding Itinerary
What follows is a general flow of events.
Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
June 5: Pre-trip meeting with your guides in Kotzebue at 6 pm.
June 6: We fly north and east from Kotzebue leaving the frozen Chukchi Sea behind. We fly over the great expanse of wilderness and up into the spectacular De Long Mountains. Once we unload and set up camp, we bird and hike all night if we like because the sun won't set. But after a good walk we will make a hot, nourishing meal and rest after all the traveling
June 7- 12: Each day of the trip brings its own surprises. With only 50 miles to travel in 9 days we have plenty of time for exploration and birding. The trip will include three layover days where we can devote all of our energies to seeing the country and birds. The first layover will be as high in the mountains as possible and will feature a hike onto the alpine ridges. We will take another hiking day further down river in an area with large lakes and another full day in pursuit of gray-headed chickadees. We search daily for gray-headed chickadees all along the river and with endless daylight we will have plenty of time for searching.
June 13: Clean-up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll catch our short return flight back down the Noatak to Kotzebue where we can remove our rubber boots and begin exaggerating about our trip.
Kugururok Birding and Rafting Trip 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: Non-camp 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. There could be bugs so bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent.
Suggested Reading: The Big Year, Mark Obmascik; Last Light Breaking, Nick Jans; Ordinary Wolves Seth Kantner; The Kotzebue Basin, Alaska Geographic Society; Explorations of Alaska, George Stoney; Alaska's Brooks Range, John Kauffmann. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.