- River Length
- 120 miles
- 10 days
- July to August
The Sheenjek River originates North of the Arctic Circle in the Romanzof Mountains of the Brooks Range in Northeastern Alaska. Federally designated as Wild & Scenic, the Sheenjek River area was the inspiration of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and was the location of one of the most significant scientific explorations within the Arctic Region of Alaska.
In 1956, Oulas and Margaret Murie accompanied by the Wilderness Society and New York Zoological Society, cataloged the flora and fauna of the Sheenjek drainage bringing national attention to the unspoiled wild lands of the high Arctic. As a direct result, the area around the Sheenjek River was protected by the federal government in 1960 as part of 19 million acres into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including 8 million acres wilderness, 9.5 million acres of refuge and 1.5 million acres coastal plain.
The Sheenjek River is a scenic waterway, meandering through braided channels separated by winding gravel bars. Sloughs and small lakes are scattered along the edges of the Sheenjek River, providing excellent habitat for waterfowl. The Sheenjek River flows southward from High Tundra into Boreal Forest, the stands of small spruce trees opening in places, allowing for expansive panoramic views of the towering Romanzof Mountains. Wildlife viewing along the Sheenjek River is spectacular, with frequent sightings of Moose, Grizzly Bear and Barren Ground Caribou. Hiking in the upper Sheenjek River’s glacial valley is quite good, with numerous opportunities to step away from the river corridor and explore the mountains.
The Sheenjek is accessed via flight from Fairbanks to the small Gwich’in town of Arctic Village, located at the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An additional bush-plane flight from Arctic Village accesses the Sheenjek River’s put in at the base of the Romanzof Mountains. The take-out of the Sheenjek is serviced by bush-plane back to Arctic Village for return flights to Fairbanks.
Trips on the Sheenjek River are most often run in August, which is peak foliage season in the high Arctic. The vibrant autumn colors of the banks of the Sheenjek are dramatic and sure to inspire vivid memories of the Sheenjek River. Nights increase in length during late summer along the Sheenjek River, allowing her visitors excellent viewing of the Aurora Borealis and brilliant stargazing opportunity.
Visitors to rivers in the high Arctic should be adventurous and open minded. 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.