Every backcountry packraft trip we run that includes ANY whitewater at all will include mandatory practice paddle days.
Even though the majority of the packrafting trip is NOT a whitewater packraft, it does have some Class II water to negotiate. So we treat it as a whitetwater packraft trip. The bulk of the trip is a flatwater, easy packraft, but you do have a couple features and sections to contend with. So make sure you’re comfortable with that before heading out.
We can’t simply take your word for it that you’re a solid experienced competent boater and then fly in to a remote backcountry river and find out your skills aren’t what you or we thought. That doesn’t work.
Practice Makes Perfect
We’ll fly in, make camp and spend an appropriate amount of time running some entry level runs to both evaluate your skillset, and advise and instruct you on what you need to do.
Your trip is then at the guides’ discretion; if the guide suitably determines this trip is not safe for you, you’ll be flown back to the location you flew in from, at your cost.
We take water trips very seriously. You need to as well. Even simple Class I or II water can have Class V consequences if things go awry. So take note of this, listen to your guide, and treat the river with caution.
Is This a Match?
Who’s It For?
This trip is a good match for adventurous folks with a modicum of whitewater experience, comfortable in the water, outdoor lovers and those not yet ready for or wanting a full blown whitewater paddle extravaganza. you do need to have some wherewithal in the water, so experience with paddling or whitewater rafting is really helpful.
Multiday river trips aren’t for everyone, so don’t think of it as a 4 hours whitewater rafting trip. You do need to be somewhat robust and durable to be out in the wilderness like this for a week.
You must be comfortable swimming in whitewater. If you’re not a swimmer, this isn’t a good place to learn.
There are some basic entry level Class II rapids. Nothing terribly wild, but enough to keep you paying attention.
Cold water is ALWAYS a challenge. And the Copper River comes right out beneath the toe of Copper Glacier. It’s cold water. So we treat that seriously.
Important - Cold Water
Any immersion in water this temperature is adversarial and challenging. Glacial rivers are cold, and few are colder than the Copper can be.
So we wear suitable splash wear, make sure we run some practice paddles before we tackle anything adventurous and treat it seriously.
How serious are the rapids?
The rapids here, unless we see some really unusual water levels or water event, are not teribly challenging. But they’re not for everyone.
Even a beginner paddler can run the river, just fine, by heeding instructions, following their guide, paddling hard and keeping your wits about you.
None of the rapids here have intrinsic high-consequences
Do you have any video?
How are the mosquitoes?
We run this trip anytime from early June – mid Sept. Mosquitoes are typically a bit thicker in July, but not always. Most of the time on the river they won’t be problematic at all. Camping they can be a bit more to deal with, but that’s just the nature of backcountry travel during summertime in Alaska.
Bring a headnet, bug dope and the right clothing and they really aren’t too bad at all.
Do we need a backpack?
Yes, a backpack will help enormously. Don’t plan on runnning a trip like this with a duffel for your gear. It’s too difficult to portage gear from the landing strip to camp ad to the river.
We’ll provide a dry bag to stow you pack inside and keep things dry.
You’ll be responsible for your hiking clothing, bedding, and so on, as usual. We can outfit you with a tent if you require.
We don’t need whitewater helmets on this trip.
You will need a pair of river shoes to go over your booties. A cheap old gnarly pair of sneakers work best.
You want to pack your gear in a medium size backpack. 50-60L is fine. You can use this pack for a day pack as well.
I recommend a base layer you wear on the river under your splashwear for paddle time, and then separate hiking and cap wear afterward. We’ll have a gear packet available for you before the trip departure outline how to pack, and more details, etc.
Do we need whitewater helmets on this trip?
What about packrafting gear?
Expeditions Alaska will outfit your packrafting trip. That includes packraft, spray skirt and boat deck, dry suit or splash wear (trip dependent), neoprene paddling gloves and booties. Whitewater trips include helmets. All paddlers are provided with an approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device).
Dry bags are included for you as well.
Your guide will also carry a tow strap, throw bag and line, plus the usual backcountry safety equipment of sat phones, first aid kits, etc.
If you have your own equipment, you’re welcome to use that instead. Let’s talk about it first and make sure your rig is appropriate for this trip.
What comes with the Food Add-on?
If you’d like, Expeditions Alaska can handle your backcountry food for the trip. Cost depends on trip length, but it’s typically $325 for a 2-4 day trip, and $425 for a trip 5 days or longer (backcountry days).
We will organize and pack the food, handle all backcountry prep, as well as pots and pans, the stove/s, fuel and your mess kit. Assistance for cleanup and dishes is always appreciated, but not requisite.
NB: this means, if we’re doing food for your trip, you must arrive with requisite space in your backpack for your share of the food. This typically means a BV500, sized 8.7 in. diameter. (22.1cm) x 12.7 in. (32.3cm) height. There’ll also be your mess kit (cup, bowl, cutlery, etc) and maybe some additional group gear, whether it’s a fuel bottle, stove or pan or skillet. In general your guide will carry the bulk of this stuff, but we certainly can’t and don’t intend to carry all of it. So don’t arrive with a backpack packed full, no space left in it, if we’re doing your food for you. Your food goes in your pack.
More info linked on the page below.
What kind of menu do we get with the food purchase?
Another thing to remember is Expeditions Alaska isn’t a simple “production line” outfit. Guides all have their own systems and menus and favorites, so we don’t have a generic “here’s your trip menu” at all. Menus vary trip to trip. Often a lot.
What I can tell you is you’ll enjoy good food. Really good food. Whether it’s a great pizza, a dish of Pad Thai or greek salad or a lentil soup, I assure you that you’ll appreciate your guides’ culinary expertise. Good food takes a bit extra effort, but can really help bring your trip experience up a notch. Or three.
We do our best to accommodate most dietary requirements, tastes and preferences. We have a comprehensive food form for you to complete and we’ll do our very best from there to put together a menu for the trip that you’ll enjoy.
This is a common question we get , and an important one. So important, it warrants its own page.
What’s A Fully Outfitted Trip Involve?
That is trip dependent.
For backpacking trips, a fully outfitted option includes your tent (one or two person tent), all your kitchenware, food and cooking by Expeditions Alaska. A typical trip, up to 12 days long, costs an additional $450.00 per person for the fully outfitted option ($350 for 4 day trips or shorter).
Available “á la carte” options are (per person)
Food/cooking $325.00 (up to 4 day trip duration)
Food/cooking $425 (any trip 5 days or longer)
For personal items such as a backpack, or sleeping pad, talk to me prior to your trip and we’ll see if we can possibly arrange something. If you need a pack I recommend you rent a backpack from a reputable local outfitter. They can find and fit a pack to you rather than “making do” with one of mine that may or may not be a good fit for you.
Items such as BRFC, bear spray, fuel, hiking poles are included gratis with Expeditions Alaska trips. See What’s Included? for more info.
What’s Included/Not Included?
All trips and trip prices include the following.
* Professional Guide Service: Experience is paramount, as is a friendly, flexible atmosphere for your trip, and Expeditions Alaska go out of our way to bring that to the backcountry. I know the routes, the natural history and the place as well as anyone, and all the best campsites! Backcountry camping in Alaska can be intimidating for a novice and even for some intermediate and experienced hikers. A qualified guide service can go a long way to minimizing problems that may come up. Customers returning for
seven eight nineten consecutive hiking trips with Expeditions Alaska speaks volumes for the value of a good guide.
* Travel and Accommodations: Expeditions Alaska typically offers a complete .
For example, for our Wrangell-St. Elias National Park trips, we’ll pick you up from your hotel in Anchorage, drive to McCarthy in our comfortable conversion van, stay the night at the Kennecott River Lodge, enjoy a hot breakfast the following morning in McCarthy, then fly into the backcountry. Backpack and hike for your trip, fly back to McCarthy, have the afternoon in and around McCarthy, exploring the Kennecott Glacier, or the old mines up at Kennecott, spend another night at the Kennecott River Lodge, and drive back to Anchorage the final day, right to your hotel in Anchorage.
For the ANWR trips, we’ll usually travel from Fairbanks to Coldfoot or Kaktovik by plane, then fly into the backcountry. Whether we pick you up at your hotel in Fairbanks or not will depend on whether we’re driving or flying north. If we fly, we’ll meet you at the airport. If we’re driving, we’ll pick you up.
* Gear: We can provide all cookware, fuel, etc for the trip. Feel free to let us know if you’d like to bring your own. We can get the fuel you need as it’s not possible for you to fly with any fuel in your luggage. If you would prefer a fully outfitted trip we can accommodate that. You’ll need to bring your personal gear, such as a sleeping bag and backpack. We’ll also provide bear-resistant food canisters and bear spray for the trip. Expeditions Alaska trips will also provide a cook tent for the trip. We also provide hiking poles for you if you don’t have your own.
* Safety: Any professional guide service puts safety first. This means caution, it means responsibility and it means an excellent knowledge of the area: the terrain, wildlife and travel, backcountry camping and safety. Fully qualified Wilderness First Aid certification. A satellite phone available for emergency backcountry service if necessary and a backup emergency messaging device such as Delorme inReach or PLB. We bring a GPS, map and compass on every route we do. This is an owner-operated business and all participants can feel confident knowing they’re not getting an intern or inexperienced guide for their trip.
* Storage: Extra travel items that won’t be needed while we’re in the backcountry (limited space available).
What’s Not Included?
Expeditions Alaska do not provide the following unless otherwise specified.
a) food and camping gear — Expeditions Alaska will outfit your trip if you would like us to. For a minimal addition in cost, I’m glad to supply food and camping gear (you will need your own personal gear, such as a sleeping bag, pad, clothes, pack, etc). Any specific items you may need help with, just send me an email or call me and I’ll work it out for you.
b) travel arrangements to Anchorage from outside Alaska.
c) trip insurance. Our suggestion is Travelex.
d) travel meals. Any hotel or lodge meals we eat in the frontcountry are not included in your price. So if we stop to eat along the road, for example, we do not pick up the tab for that.
d) guide gratuities.
The ANWR and Gates of the Arctic National Park trips include all travel (return) from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, or from Fairbanks to Kaktovik, where we fly into the Refuge, as well as rafts, dry bags, etc. The Icy Bay and Malaspina Glacier trips start and end in Yakutat, Alaska. Because of the nature of backcountry adventure, trips vary year to year. Each trip is also available for longer or shorter durations, and trip prices vary accordingly. Similarly, group bookings (3 or more participants) can receive substantial discounts.
For more information, contact us using the Contact Form here.
All clients complete the backcountry waiver before departing for any of our trips.
Reserving your place on a trip requires a 50% deposit. Deposits are non-refundable. All tripsbe paid in full 45 days prior to the scheduled departure date.
If the client cancels on a trip paid in full, 90% of the price can be deferred to another trip within the next 12 months, provided that
i) Expeditions Alaska is able to fill the spot,
ii) the trip is full and
iii) 30 days notice is given.
If cancellation is within 30 days of the trip only 75% of the fee can be carried over to a future trip. No refunds are given for cancellations within 14 days of the trip departure.
Expeditions Alaska reserves the right to cancel and/or modify the itinerary of a trip. You will be refunded your payment in full if Expeditions Alaska cancels your trip.
If weather or other factors delay or impede your trip, there will be no refund of fees. Expeditions Alaska is not responsible for any other costs incurred by the client as a result of the cancellation. Additional costs incurred through weather delays and itinerary changes are the responsibility of the client.
I still have more questions
Where Are We?
We can (usually) customize this trip for your group to make it shorter or longer. There are day hike options to extend it, as well as other options for paddling takeouts. But we generally recommend for most folks our planned itinerary will work best.
Bears are always common along Alaska rivers that have high salmon runs, and the Copper River has one of the highest. So we expect to see bears, or bear sign, on the trip. Both black and brown bear are present in the area.
Moose are possible, as are caribou, especially in the upper sections of the trip.
Bald eagles are common.
For the backcountry fishermen/women, this trip provides some opportunity to cast your line. Grayling are your best bet.
You need an Alaska State fishing license, you can purchase through the Alaska State Fish and Game service.
Combine it with a backpack?
Sure. My suggestion is the Heart of the Park. Backpack a few days around the area, then load the boats and float the river. It’s really a nice combination.
There are other combinations we can do from elsewhere to the area, but they mean you either have to carry all your packrafting gear (a heavy load) for your backpack trip, or fly the gear in once you backpack to the river. Workable, but costly.
Trip Itinerary & Logistics
This is a relatively simple trip, logistically, compared to some of the other backcountry travel we do. As always, I’ll preface this with the caveat that all things are subject to change and nothing is expected to be set in stone here. This is just a loose outline of Plan A. We find that efficient and safe Alaska backcountry travel often requires Plan B, C and D. And sometimes E, F and G.
You’ll arrive in Anchorage the night before your trip starts. Overnight is not included but we can suggest a few locations if you need.
The morning of your trip, we’ll pick you up at your hotel, load up and depart for Glennallen. Approximately a 3.5-4 hour drive. We’ll met up with the air taxi, finalize their paperwork with you, load the plane and depart for the Copper Glacier.
Once we’re all in, we head off to make camp. We’ll spend the early evening hours exploring the spectacular surroundings here.
Weather dependent but likely a day hike or 2 on the Glacier. Depending on your group and the exact trip plan, we may hit the water for a practice paddle.
Another day prepping for the packraft. Practice paddles are critical for backcountry trips. This gives us ample opportunity to ensure you’re up for what’s coming, and get you out of the backcountry if this clearly isn’t for you. Better to resolve that before we depart downriver.
Float the river, camp and hike.
Float the river, catch some fish.
Float the river.
Final float, meet our pickup and drive back to Glennallen and on to Anchorage. Drop you at your hotel and say our goodbyes. Group high fives and a hug.
You can expect to be back in Anchorage early evening, 6pm or so. Obviously that varies with road conditions, weather, delays and construction, and so on. Your lodging in Anchorage is not included.