The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - ANWR, Canning River Rafting Trip
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, is 19 million acres of wonder. We'll spend nearly 2 weeks in the Refuge, rafting and hiking from the Upper Marsh Fork of the Canning River, deep in the Brooks Range near the Contintental Divide, all the way north across the coastal plain, down the Staines River, to the Beaufort Sea, in the Arctic Ocean.
Rafting is definitely the best option for travel in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; it's faster, easier, and a nice break from carrying all that heavy gear on your back. This ANWR trip affords a great variety of terrains, from the mountains of the Brooks Range, the rolling foothills of the North Slope, and the coastal plain, host to an incredible diversity of wildlife, vegetation and birds. There is a very good possibility of encountering the migrating Central Arctic herd, numbering in the tens of thousands, as they move westward across their summer range in the Refuge.
Wolves, arctic and red foxes, grizzly bear also roam the tundra. In ANWR, even seeing Musk Ox are a possibility. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Canning River area in particular, is known for it's amazing bird life, and there are numerous species of birds in the region, including golden eagle, Gyr and Peregrine falcon, ptarmigan, tundra swan, arctic terns, gulls, loons, magpies, and an amazing diversity of ducks and geese. As we approach the arctic ocean we'll visit the marsh ponds where many of these birds are found nesting, and might easily be photographed (ensuring we're careful not to disturb them).
We'll be sure to allow plenty of time for day hikes and exploring, particularly in the earlier part of the trip in the Brooks Range. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is so little visited, more than likely we'll be walking in valleys and on ridges that are rarely travelled by man. Few people leave the wide braided river beds of the valley floors, yet it's well worth the effort to climb the ridges and peaks for some stunning views, or just to sit and wile away an afternoon - soak up that ANWR wild.
It would be remiss not to mention mosquitoes regarding this trip. The arctic is famous for mosquitoes, and yes, they really can be that bad. But, with proper attire, mosquito repellent, bug netting, and a good attitude, it's possible to not have too many problems. Here again the river is your friend, as the wide braided channels of the stream provide little habitat for the mosquitoes, so they're found in far fewer numbers along the riverbed. Also, a nice breeze is often blowing up the riverbed, which helps keep them at bay.
We'll meet in Fairbanks and travel north up the Dalton highway to Coldfoot, at the beginning of the Brooks Range. Spend the night in Coldfoot before flying in a chartered air taxi the following morning to our landing strip on the headwaters of the upper Marsh Fork River.
From here we raft the Marsh Fork to the Canning, down the Canning and on to the coastal plain where we join the Staines River (pronounced Steens) and float to the Arctic Ocean. On our pickup date, we fly back to Coldfoot, where we'll enjoy hot food, a shower and a relaxing evening before the drive back to Fairbanks the following day.
This trip is somewhat flexible; we can do a 7 day trip or a 14 day trip. We float all the way from headwaters to the sea, or shorten it on either end. The actual paddle from top to bottom is a good 7-8 days floating time, which means lots of time for day hikes and explorations and photography along the way.
A short video from our ANWR on the Canning River
Where Are We?
View ANWR in a larger map