GOATS, GRIZZLIES and GLACIERS
Upper ALSEK RIVER – 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 a truly 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 an exploration into glacial and geological history. The river widens temporarily at Lowell Lake, which has been carved out by the massive Lowell Glacier, before continuing downstream towards the Gulf of Alaska.
Being here is like going back in time. Across the lake, the massive wall of glacier ice towers above the water, constantly calving turquoise icebergs with resounding booms. From the slopes of Goatherd Mountain, we get a birds’ eye view of this river of ice leading into the heart of the St. Elias Mountains.
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 the lake, camping on the shore across from the Lowell Glacier, that’s constantly calving bergs off its face with resounding booms. and paddling amongst the turquoise-hued bergs that calve off the glacier And from 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.
Length: 7 days
Activity: rafting, hiking
Skill Level: novice….
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.
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.
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.
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. Our passenger van will be waiting for us all in Haines Junction to transport us back to Whitehorse by early evening.
• all transportation from Whitehorse and return (including helicopter out of Lowell Lake)
• the services of 1-2 fully qualified Sila Sojourns guides (depending on group size)
• all rafting gear, including lifejackets and safety equipment
• all group equipment including tents, cooking gear, first aid supplies, and satellite phone
• all meals from lunch Day 1 to lunch on the last day
We carry a full complement of maps with us but if you wish to have your own, the 1:250,000 scale map you will want is called Dezadeash 115A, St. Elias 115B&C. 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.
What to Bring:
See Rafting and equipment clothing list