Gates of the Arctic National Park
The Noatak River Trip is a classic arctic voyage within the mountain wilderness of Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Noatak is one of the longest rivers in our National Wild and Scenic River system, flowing 425 miles from the glaciers of Mt. Igipak to the Chukchi Sea. Surrounded by the mountains of the Brooks Range for much of its length, this watershed is remote! Wildlife, wilderness and superb hiking are the highlights of Arctic River Guides Noatak River trip.
The Noatak is a great river to travel by canoe, kayak or raft. It is relatively easy and meandering for the first few days; a good stretch to brush up on paddling skills. Further downstream the current picks up and you can enjoy a series of easy Class II rapids. You should alternate days paddling with days to explore beckoning side valleys and hike the ridges among bands of Dall sheep and caribou. From high vantage points, your group can see for miles and experience the vastness of the Noatak country.
As you travel down the Noatak, your group may have opportunities to photograph caribou as they swim across the river, or brown bears grazing blueberries on the autumn colored slopes above. The still evening silence is broken by the haunting call of the loons or the howl of a wolf. Ripples on the quiet waters mark the passage of fish below. Grayling, arctic char, pike and lake trout are all found in this arctic watershed.
By August the willows are turning to gold and the bearberry, dwarf birch and bearberry turn to brilliant shades of red. Spring blossoms have been replaced by fall berries; blueberries, cranberries and bearberries. Fluffy white heads of Alaska cotton grass mirror the snow-capped mountains encircling the Noatak basin.
Through this colorful arctic tundra parade bands of caribou on their migration across the mountain passes to the forested regions on the south side of the Brooks Range. With sleek coats gleaming in the sun, the caribou file south along routes they have used for centuries, crossing the Noatak River along their way. In recent years, musk oxen have re-established themselves in the valley. With their long, silky hair and stoic demeanor they are perfectly suited for life in this arctic ecosystem.