Alsek River

The Grand Canyon of the North

River running professionals list the Alsek River as World Class.

From the big drop at “Lava North“, to the class-5 helicopter portage at Turnback Canyon, this river expedition leaves a lasting impression of the ruggedness of the north. Experience the largest contiguous protected park in the world…Kluane Nat’l Park, B.C. Tat Alsek Provincial Park, and Glacier Bay National Park.

Based in Haines, Alaska, Chilkat Guides is the only local U.S. operator on the Tatshenshini and Alsek. Our local expertise combined with the vast international experience and safety record of our guides, we are the premier guide service on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers.

The Alsek River Rafting Experience

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The Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers pour out of the Canadian interior to the Gulf of Alaska. They follow though two of the world’s most spectacular national parks, Kluane Park in Canada, and the Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Following the paths of ancient glaciers, the river carrys us into the heart of the world’s largest non polar ice fields. It is a place still caught in the clutch of the last ice age, a place where the awesome forces of glaciation are still at work. It is one of the world’s most beautiful alpine regions.

Today, most of the glaciers of the Alsek valley are retreating. In their wake has sprung a wide variety of life. Wild flowers bloom all summer, berries carpet the hillsides and mushrooms abound in the forests of alder, birch, evergreens, and cottonwood. On the steep hillsides, mountain goat and dall sheep feed on lush grass. Brown bear, wolves, lynx, wolverine, and black bear flourish in the pristine valley. Moose, ducks, geese, and swans, share marshes and ponds. Eagles, falcons, and a variety of hawks soar in search of small prey. Kingfishers, jeagers, and arctic terns hover and dive for fingerlings in the river. Salmon battle the swift current of the river to return to the same spawning grounds in which they were born.

The trips reach their full crescendo at Alsek Lake, where the Grand Plateau and Alsek Glaciers create a face of ice nearly 8 miles wide, encircling a deep lake filled with huge icebergs. To see a massive piece of the glacier break off and thunder into the lake is one of those sights you will never forget. To top it all off, towering 15,000 feet above our camp is the ice-capped summit of Mt. Fairweather, the crown jewel of the Alaska coast.

Alsek River Rafting (14 days) $4550 (+tax)

Typical trip dates include:
May 31 – June 13
June 16 – 29
July 20 – August 2
Please see our Dates & Prices page for exact dates and current availability.

12 river days
11 camping nights
Charter flight:Dry Bay – Yakutat
Helicopter portage
1st night hotel accommodations
Transportation to the river
All river meals
Shared tent
Sleeping pad
Life jacket
Rubber boots & gloves
Dry bags

Equipment List
Getting Here & Away

Duration: 14 days

Start Location: Haines

End Location: Yakutat

Day 1 Our Alsek River adventure begins in Haines Alaska, a small town located 100 miles north of Juneau on the Lynn Canal. We will have an orientation session and gear check. From Haines, we will drive 165 miles to Haines Junction in Canada’s Yukon territory. The stretch of road from Haines is one of the most spectacular in the world. At first, the drive follows the Chilkat River, home of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, the drive then climbs out of the coastal valley into the high alpine region, a wonderland of wild flowers, glaciers and incredible vistas. Typically we’ll camp at the put in on the first night so we can get an early start on the river the following morning.

Day 2 We will plan to get an early start in the morning. After a riverside breakfast and breaking camp we board the rafts on the calm waters of the Dezadeash River, setting a mellow pace for the first few days of the trip. We gain some down-river momentum at the convergence of the swift moving Kuskowalsh River, thus signifying the beginning of the Alsek River. From here we meander our way into the ice age wilderness, a sparse environment ripe with the scars of recent glacial activity.

Day 3 We will make our way down to the Lowell Glacier – the first of the many glaciers that come right down to the river. It is very active and, like most glaciers, has a lake at is base into which huge chunks of ice frequently calve with a tremendous thunder. Hundreds of feet up the valley sides there are still obvious lines marking the levels of the lakes that have been formed by the glacier surging forward, completely blocking off the river. The river flows into the lake, where we will set up camp for the first of our lay over days.

Day 4 We will plan to spend the day hiking up Goatherd Mountain from our camp. From the top of the mountain, the views are breathtaking. The Lowell Glacier stretches away into the mountains some 65 Km. Its blue surface striped with gently curving lines of rock moraine. Towering peaks jut into the heavens, and if we are blessed with a clear day, we will see the monstrous massif of Mt. Logan, the second highest peak on the continent at 19,850 feet, as well as several peaks over 13,000 feet. And as it’s name suggests, there are herds of mountain goat and Dall sheep on the mountain, giving us an excellent opportunity for photos.

Day 5-7 From the Lowell Glacier we will wind our way downstream, through deep canyons with steep mountains on either side. There are several large rapids to negotiate and we will stop to scout several of them to be sure we pick the safest way through their rolling waves and crashing holes. On the eighth day we will arrive at the largest of all the glaciers on the trip, the Tweedsmuir. It forces the river up against the wall of the valley crowding it into a narrow deep gorge known as Turnback canyon. In Turnback, the river plunges through a ten mile series of horrendous rapids. Though it has been kayaked several times, it is still considered to be unsafe for rafts. We will camp above Turnback Canyon, at the foot of the glacier.

Day 8 Early in the morning, a helicopter will arrive at our camp to begin ferrying us, and all of our equipment around Turnback canyon. On the short flight you will get a great view of the area and the famous rapids that few have seen. On the other side of the Canyon we will re-inflate the boats and continue downstream. Passing the Vern Ritchie and Battle Glaciers, we approach our camp around the confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers. At the confluence the river becomes a giant rolling highway, braiding out across the three mile wide valley.

Day 9 As we float downstream, the mountains in view are taller and the glaciers seem larger and more numerous. In the morning, we will pass into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and into the sight of the massive Walker Glacier. This magnificent glacier tumbles down crystal blue to the river’s edge. It is enough to take your breath away. We will spend the afternoon exploring the glacier, making our way up to the first of its ice falls. We will marvel at its jagged seracs, peer into its deep crevasses, and enjoy a snack on the colorful rocks of the medial moraines. Only by wandering onto the glacier can you truly appreciate just how huge, powerful and alive these glaciers really are.

Day 10-11 On the river again, more glaciers, at one point you can count over twenty glaciers in a spectacular panorama. The Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers come together at the river to form an eight mile wide face of ice arcing around a beautiful blue lake filled with icebergs, the largest found anywhere in Glacier Bay Park. Thunder rumbles across the lake at regular intervals as the glacier spawns another berg. The entire scene is only the foreground however to one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, Mt. Fairweather. The totally ice clad summit soars over 15,000 feet above our camp.

Day 12-13 The total volume of water is now in the range of 50,000 to over 100,000 cfs, five times more water than the Grand Canyon. We’ll spend the final days rowing through a remote region of Glacier Bay National Park and finally out into the lake (weather permitting) for a closer look at the glaciers and massive icebergs. Our last camp is the most spectacular one yet. It is here that we coined the phrase “scenic overdose”.

Day 14 We will leave the Alsek Lake area for the final leg of our float trip. Fifteen miles downstream we will arrive at Dry Bay, a small collection of buildings on the coast that are the hub of a busy fishing industry on the river. There you will board small charter planes for the flight north to the town of Yakutat where the trip will end …. But the memories will live on.

Register Now! It’s as easy as-

1 Complete a registration form and return it to Chilkat Guides.

Alsek Packet

2 Reserve your space with a $500 deposit.

We will reply with a link for payment once we have received your registration form.

3 Read and Sign the Acknowledgement of Risk Form (PDF).

DEPOSITS: A deposit will reserve your space on any expedition. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

PAYMENTS: We accept personal checks, cashiers checks, money orders, Paypal, Mastercard & Visa.

REFUNDS: In the event that you are unable to join us the following guidelines will apply. All deposits include a $500 non-refundable registration free. Full Refunds, less registration fee, will be provided 90 days prior to the trip date. 25% refunds will be provided 30 to 89 days prior to trip date. Any amount retained by Chilkat Guides can be credited towards another trip if used within 12 months. No refunds will be provided within 29 days of the trip date. This policy has been established to meet the demands of planning well-organized trips. If for any reason a trip ends early there will be no refund. If you have not paid in full 30 days prior to your trips departure, and you have not contacted us regarding other payment options, we reserve the right to schedule another individual in your place. In this event, you are responsible for any associated costs.

IF YOUR TRIP IS CANCELLED: If, for any reason, Chilkat Guides has to cancel your trip, all deposits and trip payments will be refunded in full, or, are fully transferable to another trip. Chilkat Guides will not be responsible for any costs associated with cancellations including, but not limited to: flight cancelation fees, flight change fees, and/or associated lodging and meal fees.

WEATHER: DELAYS AND ASSOCIATED CONSIDERATIONS: In the event that your trip is unable to depart at the scheduled time, individuals are responsible for any associated costs including food and lodging.

RELEASE, ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT: All participants are required to sign our Release, Acknowledgment of Risk and Indemnity Agreement. Please take time to read this form and make yourself familiar with it before signing.