Raft one of the wildest rivers in North America through a remarkable glacial landscape that will leave anyone who sets eyes on it speechless.
If you think you’ve seen it all, we invite you to journey to the rugged and remote wilderness of Canada and Alaska’s Yukon Territory for an unforgettable Alsek River rafting trip. Flowing through the heart of Kluane National Park and Preserve, Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, and Glacier Bay National Park, the Alsek River is a meandering masterpiece of untamed beauty.
As you navigate 160 miles through an awe-inspiring landscape, you’ll paddle through thrilling Class III-IV rapids and drift past colossal icebergs while witnessing the raw power of calving glaciers. It’s a chance to marvel at the towering peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains and be wowed by wildlife like grizzlies and playful seals in their undisturbed natural habitat. It’s clear that this 12-day Alsek River rafting trip isn’t just about the adrenaline-inducing whitewater. This is a true backcountry expedition through one of the last great wilderness areas on the continent. It’s a region so rugged and so remote that few people experience it each year. And for river runners and adventure seekers alike, there’s nowhere else like it.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Alsek River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips in the area, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip
Arrive in Whitehorse in time for an 8 PM orientation meeting with your trip leader. This is a chance to ask any last-minute questions about gear or packing, as well as meet your fellow travelers.
Scenic Drive to Kluane National Park
Our expedition begins this morning with a 1.5-hour drive to Haines Junction, where we’ll stop to visit the Kluane National Park Interpretive Center. Back in our vans, the drive continues over scenic Haines Pass to the Pleasant Camp Border Crossing in Haines, AK, to clear U.S. Customs.
Later in the afternoon, we arrive at the edge of Kluane National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we transfer to a 4×4 vehicle for the final 12.5 miles along a rugged trail to our waiting rafts and crew.
As the 4×4 fords streams and bumps across meadows, we often see our first wildlife of the trip. Bears, mountain goats, and Dall sheep are frequent sights, but the valley floor is also an excellent habitat for moose, beaver, songbirds, terns, swans, and other waterfowl.
The “road” fades out at the braided alluvial fan of Serpentine Creek, where our rafts will be rigged and waiting on the banks of the Dezadeash River.
After a thorough safety talk, we’ll make final adjustments to our packs and begin our journey. down a gentle stretch of the Dezadeash, aiming to find a suitable camp for the evening.
Days 2 & 3
Lowell Glacier & Lowell Lake
The river is slow moving for the first few miles this morning until the confluence of the Dezadeash and the Larger Kaskawulsh. Here, the river becomes the Alsek, and the current picks up significantly.
This is an interesting portion of the river past ancient lava flows, unusual rock formations, dunes of wind-blown glacial till known as loess, and lots of bear sightings. Occasionally, we’ll stop to stretch our legs on a short walk to a waterfall or scenic overlook.
In the 1870s, dammed by the surging Lowell Glacier, this portion of the river was flooded, creating a massive lake. When the dam broke, the ensuing flood was greater than the volume of the Amazon. Throughout the valley, you will see remarkable remnants of the lake and flood. The horizon is dominated by rocky glaciated peaks.
By the afternoon of Day 3, the river quickens, and we’ll encounter the trip’s first rapids as the river washes around boulders left behind by the glaciers. Later, we get our first view of the icebergs that dot Lowell Lake, where we’ll make camp for the next two nights. Surrounded by Himalayan-esque peaks, spectacular valleys, and breathtaking views, it’s a landscape that beckons us to explore or simply soak in the sights and rest. The choice will be yours.
Layover Day & Hiking at Goatherd Mountain
We wake on the shores of Lowell Lake with Goatherd Mountain rising up behind us, and it’s evident that this is a world-class hiking location. The group has the option to split up today depending on people’s interests and abilities. Some may choose to hike to the top of the plateau or explore the meadows at lower elevations. For others, easy exploring around the iceberg-studded shoreline of the lake and watching for wildlife may be the perfect layover day.
No matter which experience you choose, there will be unparalleled views of Lowell Glacier and the impressive peaks of the St. Elias Range. Gazing high into the ice field region of Kluane National Park, you’ll spot 13,905-foot Mount Kennedy, as well as Alverstone and Hubbard Mountain, which rise more than 15,000 feet above sea level. Canada’s highest peak, 19,850-foot Mount Logan, also looms in the distance.
Days 5 & 6
Icebergs, Whitewater & Alsek Canyon
Back on the water today, we continue across Lowell Lake, paddling and rowing through a maze of icebergs, which have calved off from the face of Lowell Glacier. The bergs range in size from minute to massive (some the size of entire apartment blocks!). Periodically, one rolls over with a resounding thunder, exposing its freshly washed, sapphire-blue underside.
As the lake narrows and becomes a river again, our pace picks up, and our anticipation for whitewater builds. We soon encounter some of the biggest rapids of the trip, including Lava North. Much like Lava Falls in Grand Canyon, which this rapid is named after, it’s full of big water features that make for an unforgettable run.
Further downstream, the river valley becomes more confined, and the scenery continues to impress. Here, the mountains are high, waterfalls plummet from the cliffs above into the river, and several more fun rapids and wave trains keep the excitement factor high.
Below Bates Creek, we’ll set our sights on finding camp for the next two nights. There are a number of possible layover camps on this stretch of the Alsek that are well-positioned for alpine hikes, glacier walks, and simply relaxing in one of the most beautiful natural settings on the planet. We’ll do plenty of exploring but also make sure there’s time to rest and reflect on the first half of our journey.
Back on the water, we leave the Yukon’s Kluane National Park and enter British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park. Here, the Tatshenshini, another world-class whitewater trip, merges with the Alsek and continues as the Alsek into Alaska. For whitewater enthusiasts, the Tatshenshini-Alsek watershed is a dream.
Turnback Canyon & Tweedsmuir Glacier
The day greets us with more mind-blowing scenery and massive wave trains on the water as we approach the notorious Turnback Canyon. Although it’s been kayaked several times in low water, the dangerous and turbulent whitewater in Turnback is considered unnavigable in a raft.
For this reason, the main objective today is to position ourselves for an exciting helicopter portage tomorrow, which will offer us a birds-eye view of this impassable canyon and the impressive Tweedsmuir Glacier. We typically aim to set up camp at the base of the glacier. It’s a majestic setting with a dramatic and imposing sapphire-blue glacier hanging off the nearby cliffs.
Tonight, the guides will deflate the rafts and consolidate the group’s gear in preparation for the heli-portage.
Scenic Helicopter Ride Over Turnback Canyon & Tweedsmuir Glacier
Immediately after breakfast, we’ll rendezvous with our helicopter transportation and begin the heli-portage over the canyon and glacier. Offering once-in-a-lifetime views of the region’s mountainous and ice-laden terrain, this experience is truly a highlight of our Alsek River rafting adventure.
It typically takes 4 – 5 hours to shuttle the group and equipment over the canyon. After lunch, we get back on the river and float down to a spectacular camp right at the confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers. At this point, the two rivers swell to stretch nearly three miles wide, surging through braided channels that crisscross the valley. The resulting waterway continues as the Alsek River and soon enters the State of Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park.
Days 9 – 11
Glacier Bay National Park & Alsek Lake
If you’ve been lucky enough to raft the Tatshenshini, the next leg of our journey is an opportunity to revisit the 55-mile stretch of the lower Alsek from the confluence down. It’s an otherworldly river corridor filled with wondrous sights that will baffle our senses.
Floating through the braided channels of the Alsek, the river narrows. Looking around here, we are encircled by massive peaks in an amphitheater of glacial ice and rock that dwarfs our very existence. A 360-degree look reveals dozens of glaciers, and soon, the crystal blue hues, deep crevasses, and jagged seracs of Walker Glacier come into view. We’ll spend some time hiking and marveling at this ancient river of ice.
Cutting through the Brabazon Range, we pass the massive Novatak Glacier, which is the tip of one of the largest ice fields outside of the polar regions. Eventually, we reach Alsek Lake, which was formed by the gouging action of the glaciers, resulting in the largest lake found anywhere in Glacier Bay National Park. We’ll set up camp on the shores of this iceberg-dotted lake. Behind us, Mount Fairweather, the fourth-highest mountain on the continent, soars more than 15,000 feet above us. Enjoying a hike from camp is extraordinary, but it’s the continuous explosive crescendos of calving glaciers in the distance that truly delights the senses during our stay here.
Our float continues through the icebergs of Alsek Lake. Cruising in and out of the ice is exhilarating and provides fantastic photo opportunities as we continue to witness giant pieces of ice calve off the glacier.
Dry Bay, Gulf of Alaska & Scenic Flight Back to Whitehorse
On the final leg of this unforgettable journey, the landscape transitions from the tallest peaks on the continent to the broad Pacific coastline as we make our way south to Dry Bay on the Gulf of Alaska.
At the Dry Bay airstrip, an aircraft will pick us up for the scenic return flight through the Coast and St. Elias ranges to Whitehorse, where we’ll clear Canadian Customs upon landing. After unloading gear, you’ll be transported to your hotel, where a warm shower will be a welcome amenity.
The group may want to gather at a local restaurant (not included). Whitehorse is a lively town, and it will not be difficult to find a way to enjoy the evening!
You’re welcome to depart at any time today. However, we strongly recommend that you consider making arrangements to stay in Whitehorse another night in case there are weather delays returning from Dry Bay at the end of the river trip.
Meeting Time & Place
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
8 PM, the evening before your trip
Approximately 5 PM to Whitehorse
Dates & Prices
|August 11, 16||$7,995|
- 5% taxes & fees
- $189 park fees
- Mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
- Rubber boots – $25
- Sleep kit – $85; $165 for double sleeping bag system for couples
- Hiking poles – $15
- Pelican professional waterproof camera case – $30
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- All park fees and necessary permits
- Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and rubber boots (available for rent)
- Alcoholic beverages (guests can bring their own or order alcohol in advance)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
- Fishing gear and license
- U.S. and/or Canadian tourist visa (as required per citizenship)
Oar rafts are used on Alsek River rafting trips. These inflatable boats carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures and accommodate 2-4 passengers. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, while the sturdy weight and width of the boat gives your guide confidence to hit big waves head-on. We also carry paddles, and anyone who desires to pitch in is welcome to do so.
After each day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire line of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area to camp for the night.
While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite. If it’s not a layover day, use this peaceful time to begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up.
Once the guides have all the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or a necessary restriction, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
Average daytime temps during summer months are usually comfortable but not particularly hot, while average nighttime lows can be very chilly. We will experience the North’s long hours of daylight, and your trip may also witness the dramatic northern lights. There is no guarantee against a few days of overcast weather, rain, or even snow.
Averages for Tatshenshini-Alsek Nat’l Park
|High (°F)||Low (°F)||Days of Rain|
The Class III-IV whitewater on the Alsek River offers an exhilarating and challenging adventure for experienced paddlers and thrill-seekers. As you navigate through this stunning glacial river in Canada and Alaska, you’ll encounter a mix of exciting rapids, rocky obstacles, and turbulent currents that will test your paddling skills and teamwork. Amidst the breathtaking wilderness and towering mountains, an Alsek River rafting trip promises an unforgettable whitewater journey for those seeking both adrenaline and unparalleled natural beauty.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
A $2,575/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more before the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|90 or more days before your trip||$250/person|
|89 – 0 days before your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter Nahanni Wilderness Adventures Ltd. reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
Our Alsek River Rafting adventure is run by an affiliate company and arranged through O.A.R.S. International, Inc.
Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement
We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Alsek River between the confluence of the Dezadeash River and Kaskawulsh Rivers and Dry Bay we acknowledge the territories of the Dënéndeh, Tlingit, and Champagne & Aishihik.
You May Also Like
Use our Compare tool to find your perfect Adventure.