Alaska's Porcupine River Canoe Expedition
Paddle the Ramparts Gorge and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
This trip encompasses some of the most remote and beautiful landscapes on Earth. Enjoy sweeping panoramas of mountains, plateaus and river valleys as you search for grizzlies, caribou, and peregrine falcons. Visit the remote native village of Old Crow, then paddle swift currents through Rampart Canyon. The Porcupine empties into the Yukon River right next to a town called Ft. Yukon. We’ll pack up our canoes here and catch a flight to Fairbanks, then head home.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: Meet the WI guide in Whitehorse, and have a comfortable night's hotel lodging, dinner as a group, and discuss expectations and plans for the trip.
DAYS 2-13: Fly from Whitehorse to Old Crow, where you'll prepare for and begin your paddling adventure. Old Crow's location was prized by this subsistence tribe for its strategic proximity to excellent fishing and the seasonal migratory routes of the Porcupine caribou. You may have an opportunity to interact with remaining residents of Old Crow, and glimpse life 350 miles from the nearest road.
Just past Old Crow is a canyon area known as the Ramparts. The Ramparts provides fantastic scenery and some of the best opportunities of the trip to view peregrine falcons. During this stretch of the trip you will also stop at Rampart House, an old independently operated trading post, and officially cross the Alaskan border.
A number of rivers and creeks join the Porcupine and add to the swiftness of the river's flow. The Old Crow River joins near the Old Crow settlement, and The Coleen River joins near the end of the Ramparts. The river confluence provides good camping opportunities nearby, so you'll have a chance to explore these areas on foot.
DAY 14: Arrive at Ft. Yukon at the junction of the Porcupine and Yukon Rivers. Fly out of Ft. Yukon to Fairbanks, and enjoy one last meal as a group.
DAY 15: Say good-bye to your trip mates and board the plane bound for home — with memories to last a lifetime.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: This area is a combination of mountainous and lowland terrain. The river banks are often steep and forested, however, the Porcupine and connecting rivers are surprisingly accessible. We will try to camp in the most accessible areas. The Porcupine and connecting rivers offer a range of daily route options from very easy to very difficult.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot PAK-boat foldable canoes, which hold two or three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. You will live out of large Duluth packs and dry bags. Previous wilderness experience is required. Swift water paddling and ferrying experience is recommended. This trip is remote; once you start there is no turning back. The average day's travel will consist of 6 hours of paddling, depending on weather conditions. Because of the fast moving current, you will travel anywhere from 25-50 miles a day. To protect the environment, WI uses Leave No Trace camping techniques.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer can range from 20 F in the evening to 70 F during the day. Expect a variety of weather patterns, from hot, calm, summer days to rain, wind, and cold. Severe weather is not uncommon at this latitude (60 N). Daylight often lasts until after midnight during July and August.
ACCOMMODATIONS: This is a wilderness expedition. At night you will sleep in a comfortable tent. Typically, there are 3 people per 4-person tent (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of an outhouse or a foldable commode chair set up in a private area. We make every effort to ensure privacy and cleanliness.
YOUR GROUP: Your group will consist of up to 9 participants plus 1 Wilderness Inquiry guide. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily camp activities.
MEALS: The food we bring is plentiful and nutritious. You should expect meals like lasagna, burritos, and vegetable stir-fry for dinner; cheese, bagels, peanut butter and jelly, dried fruit, and nuts for lunch; and pancakes, oatmeal, and granola for breakfast. Because this is a long, self-supported Wilderness expedition, you will have more preserved and freeze-dried foods on this trip than your typical WI trip. If you have special dietary restrictions that you listed on your reservation form, we will take them into account in our menu planning.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: If you are new to outdoor activities, you need not spend a lot of money on gear. Wilderness Inquiry will provide all necessary group canoeing and camping equipment. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. A lightweight, bent shaft paddle is recommended but not provided by WI. These paddles range from $40-100.
PASSPORT/VISA: This trip starts in Canada and ends in the United States. U.S. citizens need a U.S. Passport to enter Canada. No visa is required. Non-U.S. citizens should call the Canadian embassy for information regarding the documentation you will need to enter the country. To get the most current information visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Web site at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/ready_set_go/A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
The Porcupine River, a legendary river of the Arctic, flows hundreds of miles from the Yukon Territory through Alaska before finally flowing into the mighty Yukon River. Paddlers on this river will see abundant wildlife, encounter few people, and experience some of the great wilderness solitude of the Far North.
The Porcupine is one of the largest tributaries of the Yukon River and a historically important travel route. Single-channeled and clear-flowing, this mostly flat-water river flows past the native village of Old Crow and into Alaska. Once past the international border, the Porcupine flows through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge past beautiful steep-walled canyons, rolling hills, and cliffs before meandering across the vast wetland basin of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge to its confluence with the Yukon River.
The Porcupine River area is the wintering home of the Porcupine caribou herd. In a pattern of migration established millennia ago, the caribou of the Porcupine herd leave their wintering grounds and arrive each spring on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. This awe-inspiring wildlife spectacle evokes images of the long-gone buffalo herds of the Great Plains and spectacular gatherings of wildlife on Africa’s Serengeti Plain.
The caribou travel up to 400 miles from the wintering grounds in northeastern Alaska, the central Yukon, and the Richardson Mountains of the Northwest Territories. The herd -- 129,000 strong -- congregates on the Coastal Plain where the cows will give birth. It is a cycle that has gone on undisturbed for thousands of years.
Habitats along the river typify the eastern interior of Alaska and the west central Yukon. White spruce and black spruce make up the most common forest species, usually within a mix of aspen, dwarf willow, and birch. Although never completely north of the tree line, the trees grow smaller and more sparsely the farther north one paddles. Colder temperatures, less sunlight, and permafrost all contribute to this phenomenon.
Wildlife along the Porcupine includes caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly and black bear, moose, beaver, red fox, wolf, hare, common raven, rock and willow ptarmigan. This area also provides habitat for many raptors, including the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest creature.
The Porcupine River enters the Yukon near the remote Alaskan town called Fort Yukon. At this point, the Yukon River is a large, multi-channeled river that flows through the Yukon Flats Refuge. The main channel is not always apparent when paddling.
Yukon Flats Refuge is about 100 air miles north of Fairbanks, encompassing about 12 million acres along the Yukon River. The Yukon River reaches its most northerly point in the Yukon Flats, breaking free from canyon walls to spread unconfined for 200 miles through a vast floodplain.
In the spring, millions of migrating birds converge on the refuge that, with its 40,000 lakes and other wetlands, has one of the highest waterfowl nesting densities in North America. An estimated 1.6 million ducks, 10,000 geese, 11,000 sandhill cranes, 15,000 loons, at least 100,000 grebes, and hundreds of thousands of songbirds nest annually in the refuge. Each year, the Yukon Flats serves as a major contributor to the migrations that occur along North American flyways. Waterfowl banded on the refuge have been recovered in 45 of the 50 U.S. states, Central and South America, Canada, and Russia.
Birds are not the only migratory wildlife dependent upon refuge wetlands. Salmon from the Bering Sea ascend the Yukon River, to spawn in the freshwater streams of their birth. Runs of king, coho, and chum salmon pass through and spawn in the refuge each summer.
This overview only begins to scratch the surface of this fantastic expedition through the fabled Yukon and the heart of Alaska. For more information, read The Alaska River Guide by Karen Jettmar, Alaska Northwest Books, 1998.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is it true that if you have a DUI in the States, you may not be allowed into Canada to do a trip?
This is what we understand from the Consulate Anchorage website. Security and enforcement at the Canada-United States border has heightened in recent years. For this reason, more U.S. citizens with past criminal charges or convictions, including DUI, are refused entry into Canada. For more information: http://can-am.gc.ca/
How does the paddling compare for the Big Salmon and Porcupine River trips?
The Big Salmon has more white water areas and flows through a more mountainous area. The paddling is more technically challenging than on the Porcupine River trip. The Porcupine River is located in a broader plain before the terrain shifts into a wider canyon. There is typically more wildlife present for viewing on the Porcupine River trip. The river moves quickly, but we do not paddle through any white water areas.
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No Dates Scheduled
WI leads trips to the Porcupine River but currently has no dates scheduled. If you have a group of people interested, we can set up a customized adventure just for you! Please contact us if you are interested in a group trip to this destination.