This trip starts in the town of Haines, Alaska. Described as a town a little rough around the edges with quirky characters and a colorful history, it's the home of 2000 brave northern souls. Here, you won't find a stoplight but you will find a diamond in the rough, the quintessential Alaskan town. Haines is considered the “Adventure Capitol of Alaska” with a wide expanse of wilderness at its doorstep and almost zero crowds. Adventurers from all around the word come here for its world-class skiing, river running and kayaking to name just a few of the activities found in Haines' backyard.
Flying from Haines, and weather permitting, we will pass over Glacier Bay National Park and the vast expanse of wilderness that is formed by it and its partner, Kluane Provincial Park in Canada to form the largest protected wildness area in the world. We land on the shores of the great Alsek River, one of the great rivers of the world. While we will only spend a short portion of our trip on this river, it's an honor to get the chance to experience its waters and the terrain it cuts through. For thousands of years, this river has carved its path through these mountains and glaciers and, when it reaches the Gulf of Alaska, its mouth releases one of the largest amounts of fresh water into the Pacific of any waterway along the west coast of the Americas. Flowing through both Kluane Provincial Park and Glacier Bay National Park, the Alsek passes along the edge of the largest non-polar ice field in the world. The water we will be traveling on was ancient ice just days ago and will transport us into a world that's ever changing but in many ways still the same as it was a thousand years ago.
The majority of our trip will be spent on the remote and wild outer coast, often referred to as Alaska’s Lost Coast. Seldom visited, it offers amazing rewards for anyone willing to take on the challenges of exploring world-class wilderness. The lowlands that follow this coast are full of lush forests and wetlands bisected by streams and rivers, both teaming with life and supporting an incredibly rich and diverse ecosystem. The flora and fauna in this area rival some of the most diverse areas in the world both on land and sea. On shore, brown bears are in high numbers as are wolves and moose just to name a few species, with their tracks seemingly appearing everywhere we go. When we gaze out to sea, we look for sea otters playing alongside sea lions and seals in the surf, or watch humpback and gray whales cruising along the shore. This coast is also part of one of the largest migratory paths for waterfowl and other bird species, and it is not uncommon to watch thousands of birds each day on their way north to the Arctic, or south again later in the year.
The northern part of Alaska’s Lost Coast is home to the town of Yakutat. There are about 800 permanent residents. Most make a living through commercial fishing or in the tourism industry, through sport fishing and guided hunting. Many of the residents also live – at least in part – a subsistence lifestyle, as do many of the people who call Southeast Alaska their home. They harvest from the land and sea what they need for the year, not only as a way to offset expensive costs of living, but also as part of the culture for the people who live here. Yakutat is home to the Tlingit people who have been living here in much the same way for thousands of years. Rich in culture and history, Yakutat is a jewel set in the midst of an incredible stretch of remote wilderness and will be our final destination.
Meet your guide in Haines for a pre-trip meeting.
In the morning, and weather permitting, we will head out to the Haines airport and meet our pilot for a flight over Glacier Bay National Park to the airstrip adjacent to our cabin for the night, near the Alsek River.
After a good breakfast, we will pack up our gear, get our packrafts inflated and geared up, then push off into the Lower Alsek River. The Alsek is a big, glacially fed river that will take us to the ocean as we float along its winding shores.
Our first night on the coast, waves crash as we sleep and ocean mist greets us as we emerge from our tents. Today, we shoulder our packs and head north toward the Akwe River where we will camp for the night.
Today, we can choose to take a rest day, sticking around camp, fishing, reading or venturing onto the waters of the Akwe or Ustay rivers and exploring their tributaries.
Waking on day 5 and having a rest day under our belts, we can decide whether we want to shoulder packs and hike the beach or head over and inflate our packrafts floating on the Akwe River, which runs parallel to the coast. Either way, if we are making good time, we will be camping near the Italio River this evening as we get closer to our destination.
Today, waking to the sound of seagulls, we head out, crossing the Italio River and toward the Dangerous River. We will be watching the tide closely as we want to cross the Dangerous near where it empties into the ocean. It can have a strong current but, using our packrafts and minding the tides, we will easily cross its waters. By evening, we are near Black Sand Spit and the Ahrnklin River where we will make camp for the night.
After one last camp breakfast, we pack up our packrafts and shove off onto the Ahrnklin to float the last stretch, eventually hooking up with the Situk River and then going ashore. We have made it onto the Yakutat road system and have a bit of a hike to town. But what awaits us is more than worth the effort – a hot shower, a pizza and maybe even a well-deserved beverage.
Food while in the field
Group camping gear
Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads
Kayak, paddle, PFD, safety gear
Professional guide service
Lodging while not in the field
Food while not in the field
Gratuity for guide(s)