- Class II+
- River Length
- 102 miles
- 7 days
- Late June to Early July, August
The North Fork of the Koyukuk begins North of the Arctic Circle in the Endicott Mountains of the southern Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Federally designated as Wild & Scenic waterway, the North Fork of the Koyukuk is the principal tributary to the mighty Yukon River.
The North Fork of the Koyukuk drains the hanging valley between Boreal Mountain and Frigid Crag, the two mountains which inspired Bob Marshall, environmentalist and wilderness champion, to give the area the name ‘Gates of the Arctic’ in 1929. Today Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve encompasses 8.7 million acres of land with no infrastructure, trails or buildings. A multi-day trip down the North Fork of the Koyukuk River is a fantastic opportunity to explore this wilderness.
The North Fork of the Koyukuk flows through Alpine Tundra into Boreal Forest on its southward journey, meandering through river canyons, valleys and braided gravel channels. Rapids along the North Fork of the Koyukuk are splashy and easy with a few tricky sections that are suitable for the beginner-intermediate skill level. The waters of the North Fork of the Koyukuk are crystal clear and cold. Views from the river are impeccable, with amazing vistas of the Endicott Mountains.
Mountain lakes are abundant along the North Fork of the Koyukuk River, providing side hike opportunity and ample summer long tributary flows. Wildlife is frequently seen along the North Fork of the Koyukuk River including Moose, Wolves, Lynx, Caribou and Bear. There is excellent fishing opportunity on the North Fork of the Koyukuk for Northern Pike, Arctic Char and Arctic Grayling.
Early summer trips down the North Fork of the Koyukuk will experience 24 hours of daylight, a phenomenon that only the Arctic enjoys during June and part of July. August trips on the North Fork of the Koyukuk will find that the season has already changed to Autumn allowing for colorful foliage viewing and longer nights with endless stargazing and views of the mysterious Aurora Borealis.
Trips along the North Fork of the Koyukuk are typically 7 days in length. The put-in of the North Fork of the Koyukuk is accessed via plane flight from Fairbanks to the small bush town of Bettles with an additional bush-plane flight to Kachwona Creek. The North Fork of the Koyukuk flows directly into the bush town of Bettles, convenient as a take out and visitors can either drive or take flight back to Fairbanks from here.
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.