Alaska Arctic Rivers

Kongakut River

Kongakut River

The Kongakut is a beautiful river offering a great variety of landscapes and arctic wildlife. If you only have one opprtunity to visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Kongakut should be at the top of your list.

The Kongakut is best known for the reliability with which it treats visitors to incredible wildlife encounters. Each year 190,000 caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrate north across passes in the Brooks Range to their calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By late June, the caribou begin to aggregate in great numbers north of the Brooks Range. As they move shoulder to shoulder, they shape one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in North America. On previous trips guests have been literally surrounded by caribou. They’ve estimated seeing 20 or 30 thousand caribou in a single day. It is an awe inspiring spectacle that leaves one speechless and exhilarated.

The raft trip starts in the northern most portion of the Brooks Range. The first few days will be spent exploring the mountains, gaining spectacular vistas from the mountain flanks. Paddling north from the peaks, on this clear, fast river, you’ll enter a region of alternatively rugged and rounded foothills with excellent views of the Brooks Range to the South and the Arctic Ocean to the North. After crossing the the broad coastal plain, you’ll enter the Kongakut’s delta, with ever-widening views of the Brooks Range stretching away to the East and West.

In its lower reaches, the Kongakut fans out into an extraordinary prairie of rocks, low vegetation, ice and water. Your guides will show you the way through a maze of river braids to a massive freshwater ice field (aufeis) that appears to block the way, acting as gates to the Arctic Ocean beyond. Blue ice, clear water, gray gravel and the endless sky. The time on the coast presents a unique opportunity to explore this storied region. Tent rings, old sod houses and relics from the whaling area dot the coast. View its wildlife, be awe-struck by the vivid light of the midnight sun, or walk onto the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. In addition to caribou, you may also see wolves, grizzly bears, musk oxen, and an array of birds and wildflowers. Wolverine also inhabit the area, but are among the rarest of sightings.

This is a leisurely-paced trip and no experience is necessary to paddle-raft. After instruction, everyone joins in on the paddling under the guidance of an experienced raft captain. The Kongakuk is a fast-moving river with multiple braided channels. Often it is necessary to get out and walk the rafts in shallow places. The coast is often breezy, if not windy, meaning steady paddling for several hours may be required.

Your Guides

Owned and operated by Alaskans, this is a true wilderness guiding company with a special emphasis on Arctic adventures. Small groups (1 to 8 people) allow for a focus on traveling quietly to take in the land and its inhabitants. Small group size also allows for a diverse and spontaneous itinerary with attention dedicated to individual’s interests.

Professional guides, many who have made a career exploring remote locations of Alaska, are trained in wilderness first aid/CPR, Swiftwater Rescue and Leave No Trace.

Getting Here

The Kongakut River trip begins in Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks has daily service from Seattle, Washington and a variety of additional lower 48 airports on Alaska Air or Delta during the summer months.

Expedition Broker can arrange all aspects of your travel including flights, hotels and additional travel while in Alaska at no cost to you. Feel free to use our local expertise to help you prepare for your trip!

What’s Included

  • Transportation from Fairbanks
  • Food while in the Wilderness
  • Stoves, Cooking & Eating Utensils
  • Boats, Paddles, Life Jackets
  • Safety & Repair Gear
  • Professional guide service

Why Go?

  • The Kongakut is the gemstone of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is at the heart of a political battle over oil development within the refuge
  • Your trip will coincide with the annual migration of the 190,000 strong Porcupine Caribou herd, the largest in the World
  • This untouched wilderness is home to almost 180 species of birds, 45 species of mammals and 36 species of fish, including golden eagles, peregrine falcons, tundra swans, caribou, polar and brown bear, musk ox, wolves, lynx, arctic char and grayling



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Location Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Craft Type Paddle Raft
Activities Paddle rafting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, photography
Route Summary Brooks Range to Arctic Coast

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