National Wild Rivers
In Alaska there are 25 rivers designated as official Wild and Scenic Rivers totaling over 3,000 miles. Ranging from lazy rivers to white water rapids, the Wild and Scenic Rivers of Alaska offer a diverse array of choices at all experience levels.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers of Alaska
Alagnak National Wild River
The Alagnak River flows from Kukaklek Lake in Katmai National Preserve and offers 69 miles of outstanding white-water floating. The river is also noted for abundant wildlife and sport fishing for five species of salmon. Portions of the main branch lie outside and westward of Katmai. Best in June through September. Average trip length is 60-70 miles.
Alatna National Wild River
The stream lies wholly within Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, in the central Brooks Range. It drains south from the treeless Arctic Divide to the Koyukuk River lowlands, through rugged alpine mountains in its upper reaches, to the broad forested valley floor. Wildlife, scenery, and interesting geologic features abound in the river corridor. Best in July through September. Trip length is 83 miles.
Andreafsky National Wild River
The Andreafsky and its East fork flow through parallel valleys and are clear rivers that rise in tundra-covered uplands to meander through balsam poplar and white spruce forests. They are found inside the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. All but the lower 20-30 miles is designated Wild River. Best in late May through September and the average trip length is 100 miles.
Aniakchak National Wild River
The river lies within Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. It flows out of Surprise Lake, inside the caldera, and plunges spectacularly through “The Gates”, part of the caldera wall. Rafts and experienced rafters are recommended for these turbulent waters. Best in June through September. Trip length is 63 miles.
Beaver Creek National Wild River
A clear, gentle wilderness stream that winds through rich boreal forests in rounded mountains of the White Mountains National Recreation Area. At Big Bend, warm springs keep the river open all winter, providing good late-season grayling fishing. It does not have large rapids or serious obstacles, although the upper river flows over exposed bedrock. Best in May through September. Trip length is 130 miles long.
Birch Creek National Wild River
Located in the Steese National Conservation Area, Birch Creek headwaters are near timberline in the rolling Yukon-Tanana uplands. The river winds through boreal forested valleys to emerge eventually in the wetlands of the Yukon River valley in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. During periods of low water, the upper 8 miles of the river may require lining and extensive dragging. Best in May through July. Average trip is 125 miles.
Charley National Wild River
Found within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, this stream is known for its exceptional clarity. It has shallow, braided upper reaches and a middle section that skirts steep rock bluffs. The lower river meanders through muskeg and black spruce woods. Charley offers many miles of whitewater challenges. Best in June through August. Trip length is 203 miles long.
Chilikadrotna National Wild River
The Chilikadrotna River originates from Chigmit Mountains (a sub-range of the Alaska-Aleutian ranges) at Twin Lakes and flows west through its foothills. Since there are no pick up spots near the confluence of the Chilikadrotna and Mulchatna Rivers, floaters must travel 20 miles downstream on the Mulchatna River to Dummy Creek for pick up by float plane. Or they can travel an additional 20 miles to Marabou Landing for a pick-up by float or wheel plane. Best time of year to float is June through September. Common trip lengths are 70 to 200 miles when combined with Mulchatna on its lower end.
Delta National Wild River
The Delta Wild and Scenic River Watershed originates south of the Denali Highway and includes all of the Upper and Lower Tangle Lakes, the Tangle River, and the Delta River. The Delta River drains north through the Alaska Range, eventually joining the Tanana River and emptying into the Yukon River. Best time to float is June through September.
Fortymile National Wild River
The Fortymile River is a clear water stream whose six main forks and their tributaries flow out of the Yukon-Tanana Uplands east of the Mertie Mountains and north of the Tanana State Forest.Road-accessible boat launch sites and bush strips in the upper reaches allow trips varying from one day to two weeks. The main Fortymile offers a great way to see the differing landscapes of the interior of Alaska in a two-day float, from incised canyons to the wide-open Yukon Valley.
Gulkana National Wild River
Located north of Glennallen, and flowing southward through the forested foothills of the Alaska Range, the Gulkana is moderately difficult white water with three floatable branches; the main stem, Middle Fork and West Fork. The West Fork is a relaxing meandering stream, but watch for log jams. The main stem and the Middle Fork can be much harder. Best in August through September. Average trips range 35-119 miles.
Ivishak National Wild River
Located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Ivishak is a highly braided, swift river on the treeless arctic tundra. The upper half of the Ivishak flows through tundra covered mountains with excellent hiking terrain. Overflow ice on the floodplain can remain much of the summer, scouting may be needed to make sure the river does not disappear under an ice shelf. Best in July. Average trips range 25-150 miles.
John National Wild River
The river flows south through the Anaktuvuk Pass of the Brooks Range, in the Gates of the Arctic National Park as a clearwater river that drops gently from its treeless alpine headwaters to richly forested lowlands. The Hunt Fork is the starting point as the waters above this fork are normally to low to float, although some have portaged and lined from Anaktuvuk Pass. Best in July through September. Average trip is 100 miles.
Kobuk National Wild River
The river is located in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Kobuk flows through two scenic canyons in the southern Brooks Range and meanders across a broad wetlands valley near Kobuk village. Downstream from Walker Lake is a WW3-4 area and in the Lower Kobuk Canyon, a WW2-3 rapid section is present. Both should be lined or portaged. Best in July to September. Average trip length is 140 miles.
North Fork of the Koyukuk National Wild River
Located in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, the North Fork of the Koyukuk is clearwater surrounded by the rugged Endicott Mountains and drains to the south-facing slopes of the Brooks Range. Boaters can fly into “Summit Lake” at the headwaters of the North Fork, but expect a difficult portage and considerable lining well past Doonerak Mountain. Best in July to September. Average trip length is 100 miles.
Mulchatna National Wild River
Located in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, the Mulchatna flows through the rolling Bonanza Hills in a challenging, shallow, rocky channel, more suitable for rafts and kayaks than canoes. Best in June to September. Trips can be 100-230 miles long.
Noatak National Wild River
Located in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Noatak National Preserve, the river flows through narrow canyons, beside steep walled peaks, across broad lake-dotted basins and down two valleys to open as a wide braided river on a forested floodplain. Below Noatak village, the river flows through the Igichuk Hills to spread in a wide wetland delta, and eventually out into the Chukchi Sea near Kotzebue. Best in mid June to August. Average trip length is 350 miles.
Nowitna National Wild River
Located in Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge, the river flows clear and deep from gently rolling forested uplands in the Kuskokwim Mountains, along small bluffs and ridges and finally through flats before its confluence with the Yukon River. In the spring, high water and ice dams can back up more than 100 miles. Best in June to September. Average trip is 310 miles.
Salmon National Wild River
Located in the Kobuk Valley National Park, the Salmon descends through a poplar-spruce forest to meander into the Kobuk River. Below Anaktok and Sheep creeks, this small river alternates short shallow pools and riffles. Downriver, the pools lengthen and the river deepens. Noted for many beautiful rock outcroppings. Best in July to September. Trips can be 140 miles.
Selawik National Wild River
Located in the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, this long river flows westward to empty into Selawik Lake. The upper third of the river has numerous boulders and sweepers. On the lower 25 miles, the current is slow but strong, west winds can create waves up to 3 ft high. Best in July through September. Average trip is 230 miles.
Sheenjek National Wild River
Located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, this gentle clear water river flows through a broad valley and drains on the south slopes of the Romanzof Mountains and skirts some of the highest peaks in the Brooks Range. The topography provides a long, relatively easy float that flows south from open tundra through subarctic boreal forests to the Yukon River wetlands. Scouting is recommended because overflow ice can remain all summer. Best in July through mid- September. Average trip length is 230 miles.
Tinayguk National Wild River
The Tinayguk River is the largest tributary on the North Fork of the Koyukuk and lies within the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Tinayguk has extensive rocky rapids. Best in July through September. Average trip length is 120 miles.
Tlikakila National Wild River
This river is found within the Lake Clark National Park. The small, fast, glacier fed river flows through a deep narrow valley formed by a fault and is surrounded by rugged snow capped peaks, waterfalls and sheer rock cliffs. Just below the confluence with the North Fork, a short section of WW3-4 rapids can be portaged on the left bank. When the water is high, other WW3-4 rapids appear in the next 3 miles after this confluence. Best in July to September. Average trip length is 70 miles.
Unalakleet National Wild River
Located east of the village of Unalakleet, this clear water river begins in rough mountain country flowing through a broad valley in the Kaltag Mountains and flattens as it enters the Norton Sound. Best in June through September. The average trip is 70 miles.
Wind National Wild River
Located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Wind River flows south through an open tundra valley and into the forested floodplain of the Chandalar River. Wind River offers an outstanding variety of white water opportunities. Best in July through mid September and averages 180 miles long.