Gates of the Arctic
We can schedule trips with groups of 2 to 8. Obviously there will be extra financial burdens upon smaller groups and hiking trips are still limited to 5. Contact us directly to confer about trip options. We feel that this will open up possibilities in the Park and enable you to plan your truly once in a lifetime wilderness journey.
Wilderness Alaska began its operation in this region several years before the creation of the Park. Through the seventies and early eighties this was our primary area of exploration, in fact, many of our trips helped gather information for National Park planner staff. Recognizing and satisfying the increased interest in the Arctic Refuge generated by the imminent possibility of a significant change in management, we have reduced our scheduled trips to the central and western areas of the Brooks Range significantly. We feel that is important to help people experience the Refuge immediately in hopes that that experience may fortify the constituency speaking out to save the Refuge from Oil and Gas exploration. However as always, we can design custom trips here for small groups at any time. Please consult with us directly if you have a pressing urge to visit this part of the Range.
Arctic Float Trips
The Kokolik has been our most successful caribou trip for the last few years. 2013 was all gravy, we were in the carengetti for 4 days peaking on an evening when we sat in the tundra and had 12000 caribou stream past us a room’s distance away. It is a quaint small arctic stream in wide open tundra. The river bifurcates numerous dominate ridge lines each providing its own stimulating hike and breathtaking view. The bloom and the birds are in full swing. In this open country wildlife is regularly spotted. In the heart of what is recognized as a critical wildlife habitat referred to as the Utukok uplands, we have camped near fox dens, seen large herds of muskox, seen plenty of courting grizzly bears and even had wolverines swim in front of the canoes. As good as all the resources are, I think that the biggest attraction for me is the expansiveness and emptiness of the landscape, it is without question the most ponderous place I have ever been.
The Utukok is a parallel drainage with the Kokolik separated to the east by only 40 miles. They are nearly twin rivers though the Utukok is slightly larger. All the great hiking and wildlife that one finds on the Kokolik is on the Utukok. The cliff are just as full of raptors and the beaches have the same great populations of shorebirds and waterfowl. We float the Utukok later than the Kokolik because it tends to have more water longer. The differences are subtle and if we had more experience here they may wash out. The size difference is tactile, it is noticeable. There seems to be a few more cleaner ridge walks on the Utukok, but the caribou cows and calves tend to be slightly to the west on the Kokolik. I love both these rivers.
NIGU and ETIVLUK RIVERS
This has traditionally been an early fall trip about caribou, but this year we decided to try a run downstream during the glory days of Arctic spring. There is good bird habitat and I figure during breeding season it could be quite a busy place. Having spent the last few years flying over it on the way over to the NPRA I have come to realize that it might be just as caribou-y as it is in the fall. Last year there was the sign lingering in the snow of a huge parade that marched thru the headwaters. Word is that this parade is common enough to support a breeding pack of wolves. The Nigu is multi dimensional, with several types of paddling conditions along the way and many low ridges for hiking. Native Alaskans have used the valley for thousands of years and signs linger of their activities. Further downstream the sharper blues make for great raptor breeding areas. With luck we will make it to the Colville River which is the epicenter of raptor breeding in the arctic. Location withstanding this is the most remarkable time to visit the arctic in my mind. The land turns green before your eyes, the tundra blooms in every color and every niche and the air is filled with song instead of insect drone. And the sun never sets, who could want more?
UPPER NOATAK RIVER
This is the Gates of the Arctic Classic and perhaps a principle reason the area was selected by the Park Service. My first river trip in the Arctic was a full length Noatak trip in 1979 and it changed my life. Without question the full river trip is one of the Arctic wonders, it is time consumptive. We like so many have honed the trip down to 8 days up in its headwaters. This is where the mountains seem to brush up against the river and the wildlife is most easily observed. My favorite time for trips here is fall when the tundra is in full regalia the evenings are once again dark to allow for aurora viewing and both migrating waterfowl and caribou are most common.
As a bonus, The other main attraction of the Park, The Arrigetch Peaks are in the flight path both coming and going and with luck not obscured by clouds for a flight tour.
UPPER ALATNA PACK RAFTING
Like so many places in the Arctic, there is always some logistic complication that helps keep so many areas precious secrets. For all but the most determined or the luckiest, there is no good put-in for the upper Alatna, which is the most spectacular part of the river. Walking is the best, though not inherently the easiest way to see this country. For many, dragging boats downstream many miles is the only way to get a boat into this section and then water levels can hex that plan or even squash it. The Pack raft is the perfect solution. Small enough to carry on your back for the first few miles where the river is just too small to float. And small enough to get started when other boats are just too large to float. For those that don't finch by some extra work, there are great rewards to such a trip. As glorious as the Noatak is in fall, the Alatna is even more amazing because of the trees along the river which add just another layer of color to the country.
UPPER KILLIK HEADWATERS
GATES OF THE ARCTIC GRAND TOUR - BOOTS AND BOATS
Ten days of hiking, four days of floating