Alaska's Wind River Rafting in ANWR
Wind River Rafting and Hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Wilderness Rafting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This 9 day rafting trip features whitewater rafting, mountain hiking, fall colors, and great wildlife encounters. Fall in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can't be beat.
• Region: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Sketch of the Wind River Rafting trip…
The Wind River flows through the southwestern portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), on the south side of the Brooks Range. At the start of the trip, trees are few and small and the tundra beckons exploration. As the river loses elevation the forest takes on a park-like appearance with a moss and lichen carpet. This enchanting boreal forest is home to wildlife typical of arctic Alaska such as grizzly bears and caribou. This country also hosts wildlife more typical of the great interior forests such as beaver, black bear, moose, and lynx. Moose are exceptionally abundant in the lakes near the river. These clear lakes host migrating waterfowl, as well as northern pike and lake trout. Snowy, great gray and northern hawk owls have been spotted here, along with many other arctic and boreal species.
As we paddle the middle and lower river, we will delight in the view of rock faces striated in red, orange, gray, white, and black. Limestone mountains hang over the valley, providing striking contrast with the dark green forests. These limestone mountains make for great hiking and are pocked with caves. These caves provide refuge for Dall's Sheep and in days gone provided shelter for ancient human hunters too.
August and early September are fall in the arctic and a lovely time to be in the wilderness. We will have layover days to hike, fish, or just hang out. Well-drained slopes north of the river provide some excellent hiking opportunities; gradual ridges carry the adventurous hiker towards Dall sheep in the peaks and spectacular views in all directions. A short period of darkness is returning to the arctic midnight, and if the weather is clear, we can see the Aurora Borealis. The tundra is red and yellow. We can find huge patches of blueberries and gorge like the bears.
The river is alternately fast and rocky and calm and sandy. Whichever mood the river chooses is captivating. Caribou from the Porcupine herd flow through the valley by the thousands this time of year on their way south to wintering grounds. Along with the caribou come predators: wolves, grizzly bears, and if we are lucky, the elusive wolverine.
This is a moderately difficult river trip. The river is swift, with Class II and III rapids, and stretches of standing waves and boulder gardens. No experience is required for paddle-rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain.
Wind River Rafting Itinerary
What follows is a general flow of events.
Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Aug 31: Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at 4 pm
Sep 1: Leaving Fairbanks we fly 300 miles, over the Yukon River, to the small town of Coldfoot. We then catch a smaller plane for a spectacular flight to the Wind River. We set-up camp and enjoy our first night in the wilderness.
Sep 2-8: After inflating our rafts and talking about river safety, we set off onto the Wind—a small, clear river. We spend the next week enjoying this little river, as well as exploring our surroundings on layover days. The last few days of paddling promise steady and fun white water as this steep little river races towards the Chandalar River. Once past the confluence with the East Fork of the Chandalar River we enjoy a day of floating this broad clear river and then pull over at the appointed gravel bar, where our pilot will meet us.
September 9: Weather permitting, we catch our plane back to “civilization”. Hot showers are in order!
Wind River Rafting 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. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but mostly, “bad weather” might come in the form of rain. September in autumn so expect to wear layers most of the time. Mosquito season should be long past but bring a small bottle of DEET repellent just in case.
Suggested Reading: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Geographic; Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer; Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez; Midnight Wilderness, Debbie Miller; Two in the Far North, Margaret Murie. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.