A true Alaskan adventure begins in a bush plane, and this trip does just that. We will meet at the Haines International Airport where you will be ushered onto a quintessential bush plane equipped with giant tires for landing off-runway – on gravel bars and river banks. We will fly over coastal rainforest, along glacially fed rivers, and over ice hundreds of feet thick on the surrounding glaciers, coming in for landing along the banks of the Tsirku River. Once on the ground, we will unload our raft or packrafts and make camp. The expedition has begun.
We will start in the grey almost monochromatic landscape of the upper Tsirku river. The lake at the base of the Leblondeau glacier will allow us to explore its shore or practice our packrafting skills in still cold water. If the winds are clam we can hear the ice from the glacier creek or splash into the lake as it calves. As our journey leads us down river we will move from the Tsirku to the little salmon river going from tundra to coastal temperate rain forest. If the time of year is right we can see salmon shooting beneath our boats as they make their way to the spawning grounds to meet their destiny. Finally reaching the wide calm waters of the Chilkat river we float past Klukwan a native village occupied for thousands of years at this very site.
Depending on our starting point we may encounter white water and the water is always fast and cold. For full sized raft trips, no paddling experience is necessary, for pack rafting adventures we recommend previous paddling experience or sign up for a day trip with us before heading out on the Tsirku.
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 and while we will only spend a short portion of our trip on this river its truly 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 water way 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 ever changing but in many ways still the same as it was a thousand years ago.
The majority of our trip will be 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 rivals some of the most diverse areas in the world both on land and in the sea. On shore brown bears are in high numbers as are wolves and moose just to name a few species, with their tracks seemingly everywhere we go. When we gaze out to sea we can see sea otter playing along side sea lions and seals in the surf or watch Humpback and gray whales cruise 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 thousand 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 with most of them making a living through commercial fishing, or in the tourism industry through sport fishing and guided hunting. Many of the residents also live atleast in part, a subsistence lifestyle as do many of the people who call south east 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 but it is part of the culture of 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.
On our first morning we will board a bush plane for our flight to the headwaters of the Tsirku River. One at a time, or maybe in pairs, our pilot will weave a course up the river to our landing area. We can set up camp to begin our adventure.
We have all day to hike to the head of the valley, explore the ice of the Le Blondeau Glacier or venture up into the peaks searching for mountain goats. No matter our choice, this ruggedly beautiful river valley will have no trouble holding our attention.
Breaking camp and inflating our rafts we begin our river journey back to Haines. If you have chosen to take a full-sized raft, sit back and let your expert oarsman guide you through the braids of the Tsirku and regale you with the lore of the land. If you have chosen to packraft, we will inflate our packrafts and go through some basic paddling techniques and river safety in the calm waters of the lake before the real fun in the swift water of the Tsirku begins. Either way we will first negotiate a section of rapids before passing from the Tsirku and its surrounding tundra to the forested banks of the Little Salmon and finally into the mighty Chilkat River, always on the look out for bears who love to fish these waters when the salmon are running. We meet our driver in the late afternoon for a 45-minute ride back to Haines and a nice hot shower.
Air charter service
Food in the field, and all group camping equipment
Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc.
Raft or packraft, paddle,PFD and safety equipment
Professional guide service
Lodging while not in the field
Food while not in the field
Gratuity for guides