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Alsek River Rafting Expedition

Whitewater Rafting in Alaska with Chilkat Guides, Ltd.


Many river running professionals list the Alsek River as World Class. From the big drop at "Lava North," to the class-5 helicopter portage at Turnback Canyon, this river expedition leaves a lasting impression of the ruggedness of the north. Experience the largest contiguous protected park in the world, Kluane Nat'l Park, B.C. Tat Alsek Provincial Park, and Glacier Bay National Park on this Alaskan adventure tour.

Full Description

The Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers pour from the Canadian interior to the Gulf of Alaska and cross two of the world’s most spectacular national parks: Kluane Park in Canada, and the Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

Following the paths of ancient glaciers, the river carries us into the heart of the world’s largest non-polar ice fields. It is a place still caught in the clutch of the last ice age, a place where the awesome forces of glaciation are still at work. It is one of the world’s most beautiful alpine regions. Today, most of the glaciers of the Alsek valley are retreating. In their wake has sprung a wide variety of life. Wild flowers bloom all summer, berries carpet the hillsides and mushrooms abound in the forests of alder, birch, evergreens, and cottonwood. On the steep hillsides, mountain goat and dall sheep feed on lush grass. Brown bear, wolves, lynx, wolverine, and black bear flourish in the pristine valley. Moose, ducks, geese, and swans, share marshes and ponds. Eagles, falcons, and a variety of hawks, soar in search of small prey. Kingfishers, jeagers, and arctic terns hover and dive for fingerlings in the river. Salmon battle the swift current of the river to return to the same spawning grounds in which they were born.

This adventure trip reaches its full crescendo at Alsek Lake, where the Grand Plateau and Alsek Glaciers create a face of ice nearly 8 miles wide, encircling a deep lake filled with huge icebergs. To see a massive piece of the glacier break off and thunder into the lake is one of those sights you will never forget. To top it all off, towering 15,000 feet above our camp, is the ice capped summit of Mt. Fairweather, the crown jewel of the Alaska coast.

We have three guidelines for our nutritious and delicious food selection: quality, quantity and variety. If you have special needs or desire a copy of our detailed meal descriptions, please let us know. With advanced notice we can accommodate most special dietary requirements (indicate on your pre trip questionnaire). Snacks and treats are provided, but if you have any special favorites, feel free to bring some along. We are able to adapt to special diet requirements. The earlier we know about any dietary considerations, the better we can prepare for them.

Each adventure tour is scheduled to allow for maximum opportunities to see the wildlife of that particular area. The Alsek and Tatshenshini are below tree line and we can see dall sheep, moose, black bear, grizzly bear, and wolf. The north is rich in wildlife even if it is not readily seen. Our guides will do their best to point out animal "sign" such as tracks, scat, bear scratching posts, etc. as they come across them. The interpretation of natural history is a significant focus on our trips. We do our best to impart our knowledge of the geology, wildlife and prehistory of the area. Depending on what trip you are on, you may see different wildlife. You are more likely to see more bears on the Alsek and more moose on the Tat. The Kongakut provides great viewing of caribou herds. Other wildlife you may see are dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves, lynx, wolverine, ducks, geese, swans, eagles, falcons, hawks, and salmon.


  • 12 river days
  • 11 camping nights
  • 1 hotel night
  • Charter flight: Dry Bay - Yakutat
  • Helicopter portage
  • 1st night hotel accommodations
  • Transportation to the river
  • All river meals
  • Shared tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Life jacket
  • Rubber boots & gloves
  • Dry bag


  • Appropriate clothing
  • Rain gear
  • Sturdy hiking boots

Day by Day Itinerary

Day 1

Our Alsek River adventure begins in Haines Alaska, a small town located 100 miles north of Juneau on the Lynn Canal. We will have an orientation session and gear check. From Haines, we will drive 165 miles to Haines Junction in Canada's Yukon territory. The stretch of road from Haines is one of the most spectacular in the world. At first, the drive follows the Chilkat River, home of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, the drive then climbs out of the coastal valley into the high alpine region, a wonderland of wild flowers, glaciers and incredible vistas. We will arrange hotel accommodations in Haines Junction.

Day 2

We will plan to get an early start in the morning. We will leave our hotel and drive to our put in, which is at the heart of the Kluane National Park. Along the drive, we can watch for herds of Dall sheep and mountain goats grazing on the slopes. The river is very slow moving for the first few miles, but soon is joined by the swift Kuskowalsh River, from there on the river moves at a good clip. We often see bears in this area and there are several nice hikes that afford excellent views of the valley.

Day 3

We will make our way down to the Lowell Glacier - the first of the many glaciers that come right down to the river. It is very active and, like most glaciers, has a lake at is base into which huge chunks of ice frequently calve with a tremendous thunder. Hundreds of feet up the valley sides there are still obvious lines marking the levels of the lakes that have been formed by the glacier surging forward, completely blocking off the river. The river flows into the lake, where we will set up camp there for the first of our lay over days.

Day 4

We will plan to spend the day hiking up Goatherd Mountain from our camp. From the top of the mountain, the views are breathtaking. The Lowell Glacier stretches away into the mountains some 65 Km. Its blue surface striped with gently curving lines of rock moraine. Towering peaks jut into the heavens, and if we are blessed with a clear day, we will see the monstrous massif of Mt. Logan, the second highest peak on the continent at 19,850 feet, as well as several peaks over 13,000 feet. And as it's name suggests, there are herds of mountain goat and Dall sheep on the mountain, giving us an excellent opportunity for photos.

Days 5-7

From the Lowell Glacier we will wind our way downstream, through deep canyons with steep mountains on either side. There are several large rapids to negotiate and we will stop to scout several of them to be sure we pick the safest way through their rolling waves and crashing holes. On the eighth day we will arrive at the largest of all the glaciers on the trip, the Tweedsmuir. It forces the river up against the wall of the valley crowding it into a narrow deep gorge known as Turnback canyon. In Turnback, the river plunges through a ten mile series of horrendous rapids. Though it has been kayaked several times, it is still considered to be unsafe for rafts. We will camp above Turnback Canyon, at the foot of the glacier.

Day 8

Early in the morning, a helicopter will arrive at our camp to begin ferrying us, and all of our equipment around Turnback canyon. On the short flight you will get a great view of the area and the famous rapids that few have seen. On the other side of the Canyon we will re-inflate the boats and continue downstream. Passing the Vern Ritchie and Battle Glaciers, we approach our camp around the confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers. At the confluence the river becomes a giant rolling highway, braiding out across the three mile wide valley.

Day 9

As we float downstream, the mountains in view are taller and the glaciers seem larger and more numerous. In the morning, we will pass into Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and into the sight of the massive Walker Glacier. This magnificent glacier tumbles down crystal blue to the river's edge. It is enough to take your breath away. We will spend the afternoon exploring the glacier, making our way up to the first of its ice falls. We will marvel at its jagged seracs, peer into its deep crevasses, and enjoy a snack on the colorful rocks of the medial moraines. Only by wandering onto the glacier can you truly appreciate just how huge, powerful and alive these glaciers really are.

Days 10-11

On the river again, more glaciers, at one point you can count over twenty glaciers in a spectacular panorama. The Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers come together at the river to form an eight mile wide face of ice arcing around a beautiful blue lake filled with icebergs, the largest found anywhere in Glacier Bay Park. Thunder rumbles across the lake at regular intervals as the glacier spawns another berg. The entire scene is only the foreground however to one of the world's most beautiful mountains, Mt. Fairweather. The totally ice clad summit soars over 15,000 feet above our camp.

Day 12

We will spend the day rowing out into the lake (weather permitting) for a closer look at the glaciers and massive icebergs. Our last camp is the most spectacular one yet. It is here that we coined the phrase "scenic overdose."

Day 13

We will leave the Alsek Lake area for the final leg of our float trip. Fifteen miles downstream we will arrive at Dry Bay, a small collection of buildings on the coast that are the hub of a busy fishing industry on the river. There you will board small charter planes for the flight north to the town of Yakutat where the trip will end - but the memories will live on.

About The Operator:

Chilkat Guides, Ltd.


Haines, Alaska


January 1978

Chilkat Guides was founded in 1978 by Bart Henderson after he led the first guided trip down the Tatshenshini River. Since then we have been expanding our knowledge of the region as well as our trip offerings. We have the best guides in the business. Chilkat Guides has a Guide School, where men and women can go through a demanding hands-on guide training. Rafting is our specialty, lasting memories are our business.

Each year we work to make our expedition trips a safe, fun, and memorable time for you our guests. It is our guides’ love for their jobs and love for the beauty of the wonders surrounding us that makes Chilkat Guides a top pick for expedition rafting trips. We exceed all safety standards and our guides are some of the most talented and qualified rafters in the business. Our guides are locals to the region and can share with you the “inside story” that guides from elsewhere may not understand.