- Class I-III, V
- River Length
- 110 miles
- 10 days
The Kobuk River, located North of the Arctic Circle, drains the southern edge of the mighty Brooks Range. The Kobuk River is fed by the Baird Mountains to the north and tributary flow from the Waring Mountains to the south, flowing peacefully through Kobuk Valley National Park, encompassing 1.75 million acres of wilderness land with no infrastructure, trails or buildings.
As the Kobuk River flows southward, its upper reaches cross biomes ranging from treeless Tundra to Taiga-Boreal forest. At one point, sand dunes created by glacial silt built up over thousands of years shift along sections of the southern banks of the Kobuk River, some reaching over 100 feet in height!
Rapids on the Kobuk River are primarily located in the upper portions of the river and range from splashy riffles, to several more difficult whitewater canyons interspersed with intermediate level holes, hydraulics and waves, and one section of expert whitewater located just below the put-in at Walker Lake that is commonly portaged. In the river canyons, walls stretch up to 150 feet from the river surface and thick spruce forest lines the hillsides above.
Evidence of ancient nomadic tribes still exists along the Kobuk River, with numerous archaeological sites dating over 9000 years old along its riverbanks. Each site helps tell the history of the prehistoric hunters who once populated this valley. Today there still exist a handful of Eskimo villages located close to the banks of the Kobuk River, known as the Ambler-Kiana Villages, and visitors can often see these people along the banks of the river.
The Kobuk River Valley is important fall and winter range for Caribou, and visitors making a September trip down this scenic river have an exciting opportunity to view thousands of head of Caribou cross the river at Onion Portage and Big Arch. In addition to Caribou other wildlife is commonly sighted along the river include Grizzly Bear, Wolves and Moose.
Visitors to the Kobuk River in September will find amazing opportunity to view the autumn foliage. September days get shorter and shorter, allowing for excellent stargazing and viewing of the Aurora Borealis, but also creating colder days and freezing nights. The Kobuk is most often run as a 10 day trip, beginning in Fairbanks with a flight to Bettles and an additional float plane flight to Walker Lake.
Visitors to rivers in the high Arctic should be adventurous and open-minded. The Arctic region is a harsh environment and can require a bit of tolerance from her visitors. Weather in the Arctic can range from 80 degrees and sunny to 40 degrees and raining to 20 degrees and snowing, all within an hour. Gnats, mosquitoes and biting flies that see human visitors as a miraculous food source can also become an issue in the high Arctic. Proper measures should be taken by all visitors to the region to ensure their enjoyment of the experience. For those visitors willing to make the trip to the Arctic it is sure to be an amazing experience that will never be forgotten.