Yukon Air Service

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Floating

Floating the rivers of the Refuge can enable people with wide-ranging capabilities to travel together quickly over substantial distances and to see a variety of country. Inflatable rafts are the most commonly used boats here, but among more experienced people, and especially for use along the coast or southern flowing rivers, inflatable or collapsible kayaks and canoes are often preferred.

Float trips in the Arctic Refuge can be physically demanding and if you are planning on floating a river or paddling the coast you should have some experience with the kind of craft you are planning to use and are otherwise sensibly confident that you can meet the situations you may encounter. If you are uncertain about your ability, you may want to consider a guided trip or a less demanding itinerary.

The greatest challenges involved in floating the rivers of the Refuge are primarily in navigating shallow waters, lining or dragging boats through broad, braided areas or negotiating ice-fields (aufeis) and handling exposure to sometimes persistent and strong winds. Most rivers do have short stretches of whitewater which under certain circumstances can reach Class III conditions. Despite this, most experienced river guides consider large, commercial grade white-water rafts to be inappropriate for Arctic rivers because of their bulk, weight and lack of maneuverability. I don’t like them because they are difficult to fit in small airplanes.

Floating parties can be supported on most of the major rivers of the Refuge including the Hula-Hula, Kongakut, Canning, Sheenjek, Chandalar, Coleen and Porcupine and within certain limits, some of the less frequently floated rivers such as the Jago, Aichilik, Wind and Ivishak. Of these, the northern flowing rivers can be successfully floated in the period from about June 10th to mid-August. For those planning to paddle along the coast, the middle of this season is best to avoid problems with sea-ice and fall weather. Floating the southern flowing rivers is normally delayed until about the 3rd week of June when water levels return to normal and aufeis is melted enough to allow adequate access and safe river conditions.

If you don’t have your own rafting equipment or prefer not to bring yours, I can provide these for your trip. You can find details of these and other equipment for rent on this site at Yukon Air Service/Equipment Rental.