Noatak River Canoeing and Hiking
Canoeing and Hiking on Alaska's Famous Noatak River in Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Join Arctic Wild for an Alaska wilderness canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park. 10 days of canoeing, hiking and wildlife in Alaska's biggest wilderness. This is canoe camping at its best with fun paddling, great wildlife encounters and endless hiking opportunities. There are few places in Alaska where we so reliably see wildlife everyday.
• Dates: August 10 - 19, 2013
Sketch of the Noatak River Canoe trip…
Far north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park, the Noatak is an arctic gem. From its headwaters in the granite peaks around Mt. Igikpak, it flows west through glacier-capped peaks and rolling tundra for over 400 miles to the Chukchi Sea. Rich in wildlife and scenic beauty, it is internationally recognized as a World Heritage Site. There is no better place to experience the wilderness and wildlife of the Brooks Range than on the Noatak River.
The open country makes wildlife sightings a daily experience on the Noatak. We almost always see wolves, fox, moose and Dall sheep. Thousands upon thousands of caribou from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd migrate through the Noatak valley on their way to wintering grounds south of the Brooks Range. While paddling the Noatak we pass two salmon spawning streams. These are excellent and safe places to watch grizzly bears feeding. Nor will birders be disappointed. passerines and waterfowl wing through the Noatak every fall, stopping over in the many lush willow thickets and rich ponds of the broad valley.
In addition to the natural wonders of the area, the Noatak also has a rich human history and artifacts of ancient and historic Eskimo life can be found near the deep lakes and across the tundra.
We have several layover days to enjoy some of the best hiking in the arctic and to fish for grayling, northern pike, arctic char and lake trout. Fall colors will begin to turn while we’re out there, and blueberries are fully ripe. Wildflowers like Grass of Parnassus and Arctic Poppies will grace the tundra with the last of the summer’s blooms.
This is a fairly easy 70-mile canoe trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn out. The Noatak flows along smoothly on this stretch, with current enough to keep us moving, but if the wind blows opposite the current we will have to work to reach camp at each days end. Towards the end of the trip the river picks up speed and we get to ride the current to the take-out. Previous experience is not necessary to paddle canoes, as instruction is provided.
Noatak Canoeing and Hiking Itinerary
What follows is a general flow of events.
Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Aug 9: Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at 4pm
Aug 10: It’s a long day. We fly north from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, crossing en route the mighty Yukon River and the Arctic Circle. From Coldfoot, we charter a plane into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. We’ll land on a gravel bar near the river. If the mood strikes us we will assemble the canoes and paddle for a bit. Or we might elect to explore our surroundings on foot and save the paddling for the next day.
Aug 11- 18: We’ll canoe our way down the Noatak. We’ll paddle about 15 miles on the moving days which will take about 5 hours. Alternating days will be layover days, and we will explore from each camp on foot. We can climb peaks from every camp, but there is also lots of good walking along the river, or up pretty tundra creeks. There will be free time each and every day - after camp is pitched, the long evening is yours to enjoy the golden arctic sunlight.
Aug 19: Clean-up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll catch our return flight back up the Noatak, over a great many mountains back to Coldfoot, then on to Fairbanks. Remove rubber boots!
Noatak Canoe Trip 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: Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 70s, averaging in the high 50's. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we can get lots of sunny weather this time of the year too. Bugs should not be a problem on this trip, but traveling with insect repellent (DEET) is always prudent.
Suggested Reading: Nunamiut, Helge Ingstadt; Land of Extremes, Alex Huryn; We Live in the Arctic, Constance Helmericks; Arctic Wild, Lois Crisler; People of the Noatak, Clair Fejes. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.