Goats, Grizzlies & Glaciers

Alsek River,  Kluane National Park      (5 to 7 days)

There are few places left in North America where the untouched beauty of the wilderness is as awe-inspiring as it is on the Alsek River. Flanked by the largest mountains in North America and perched on the edge of the world’s largest non-polar icefield, it is truly a magnificent landscape.

The section of the Alsek River that we will run is entirely within Kluane National Park, in southwest Yukon. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kluane is also part of the worlds largest protected area, that traverses an international boundary, and incorporates three other parks – Alaska’s Wrangell-St Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks, and British Columbia’s Tatshenshini Provincial Park. The Upper Alsek is also designated as a grizzly bear preserve.

Travelling through the Alsek valley is a fascinating exploration into glacial and geological history. After spending a few days on the river and exploring it’s environs on foot, we’ll spend the second half of our journey at Lowell Lake. This widening in the river  Across the lake, the massive wall of glacier ice towers above the water, constantly calving off icebergs with resounding booms. We’ll have a chance to paddle amongst these other-worldly turquoise-hued bergs and photograph them from up close  ( but not TOO close)!   And from the slopes of Goatherd Mountain, which rises dramatically from the eastern shore of the lake near our camp,we’ll  get a birds’ eye view of this river of ice leading into the heart of the St. Elias Mountains. And with any luck we’ll get a  close up view of some mountain goats  as well!

Trip Details

Dates
2017 date to be determined
Duration
5 to 7 days
Price
up to $2350 + 5% gst
Activity
rafting, hiking
Skill Level (minimum)
Novice

Detailed Itinerary

THIS ITINERARY IS FOR A 7 DAY TRIP:

Day 0:
Make sure you arrive in Whitehorse no later than late afternoon. We’ll arrange an evening meeting at a pre-specified location in Whitehorse to meet each other , discuss the trip, and go over gear and any last minute questions.  The following itinerary is based on a 7 day long trip.  If the trip is planned for 5 or 6 days instead  the pace down the river is quickened or/and  the time at Lowell Lake is shortened to a 2-night camp within easy walking distance of the trail up Goatherd mountain .

Day 1:
Our tour will begin at 7:30 am. After being picked up at your accommodations, we will depart for Haines Junction, 160 kms (110 mi) to the west along the fabled Alaska Highway. Haines Junction is the gateway into Kluane National Park and the put in location for our river trip. A visit to the Park Interpretive Centre will provide us with an excellent introduction to the unique natural and cultural history of this area. Our put in site is near the community, on the Dezadeash River, a slow flowing river which meanders across the plains at the edge of the Front Range. We plan to spend our first night a couple of hours downriver just inside the Park boundary.

Days 2 – 6:
On Day 2 we will reach or pass the confluence of the Dezadeash and Kaskawalsh Rivers. The river, now called Alsek, noticably picks up in speed and size. Along its shores we’ll visit an old lava flow, see an ancient volcano and scan the mountain sides and shorelines for wildlife. We can expect to see Dall’s sheep, grizzly and black bears, and/or moose during our passage down river. We plan to reach Goatherd Mountain by the third or fourth evening and camp on the shores of ice-studded Lowell Lake. A perfect vantage point for observing the ever-changing face of the Lowell Glacier across the lake, and to listen to the thunder of calving ice. Behind us Goatherd rises dramatically, and we can scan for mountain goats scrambling along precipitous rocky ledges with their sure-footed gait.

We’ll have 2 to 3 days to explore the area around the lake, ample time to marvel at the textures and patterns of rocks and ice. We’ll have a chance to hike up Goatherd Mountain, and luxuriate in her verdant tundra and wildflower-dotted slopes. From here we have an amazing view of turquoise-hued and bizarrely-shaped icebergs floating on Lowell Lake. And panoramic vistas lead our eyes up the long snaking course of the Lowell Glacier.  On the afternoon of Day 5, we plan to raft through the ‘bergs to our final camp at the far end of the lake. From here we can wander the shores of the Alsek as it empties out of Lowell Lake on its its route to the Gulf of Alaska.

Day 7:
After a leisurely morning on the final day, we will be picked up by helicopter. It will take several loads to return us all back to Haines Junction. This spectacular half hour flight gives us an aerial view of the toe of the Lowell glacier and the tundra clad and snow capped peaks lining the Alsek valley. We intend to be back in Whitehorse by dinner time.

FOR 5 DAY TRIP:    1st night on Dezadeash River, 1 night on Alsek River and 2 nights at Lowell Lake)

What's Included

WHAT’S INCLUDED

  • All transportation from Whitehorse and return (including helicopter flight out of the river)
  • the services of one or two fully qualified guides (depending on group numbers)
  • all river gear, including lifejackets and safety equipment
  • all group equipment including tents (if needed), cooking gear, first aid supplies and satellite phone (for emergency and logistical communications)
  • all meals from lunch Day 1 to lunch on the final day

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

  • transportation to and from your home and Whitehorse
  • personal belongings and equipment as per equipment list
  • any accommodation or meals in Whitehorse

TOPOGRAPHICAL  INFORMATION

We carry a full complement of maps with us but if you wish to have your own, the1:250,000 scale map you will want is called Dezadeash 115A, St. Elias 115B&C and the 1:50,000 one is Cottonwood Lakes 115A/5. In Whitehorse, maps can be purchased at Mac’s Fireweed Books at 203 Main Street.