Alaska Arctic Rivers

Marsh Fork – Canning River

Marsh Fork – Canning River

The Canning River is the largest river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and many claim it is the most beautiful. The journey through the wilderness is designed to immerse you in the beauty of this exceptional area, introduce to its varied wildlife, and to facilitate your learning about wilderness travel. The Canning offers excellent rafting and nearly endless hiking opportunities. Naturalists will be delighted by the diversity of wildlife and birds.

The Canning begins amid some of the Brooks Range’s most jagged limestone mountains. The upper river is exceptionally rugged, and severely beautiful. As the river flows seaward, it bounds the west end of three sub-ranges of the Brooks Range, the prosaically named “Third Range,” the Shublik Mountains, and the Sadlerochit Mountains. By trips end the land is broad and the sky enormous. From a hill near the take-out spot there is a view to the Arctic Ocean in good weather.

There is time and opportunity at each camp for day hikes deep into the mountains in search of wildlife. Other activities can include fishing for Grayling and Arctic Char, making casts of tracks found in the mud, searching out raptor nests on cliffs near the river, or simply enjoying the serenity of the Arctic wilderness.

Wildlife encounters are difficult to predict but in years past a great variety of wildlife has been seen on the Canning River in August. Sightings have included Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Arctic and Red Fox, Dall Sheep, Moose, Caribou, Musk Oxen, Wolverine and one year a Polar Bear was spotted near the coast! For birds you can expect to see a host of passerines including some rarities like Blue Throats, Wheat Ears and Wag-tails. Raptors will be fledgling and the yound birds will be learning to hunt on their own. You may see Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Gyrfalcons, Rough-legged Hawks, Short-eared Owls, and maybe even the Snowy Owl.

Though it is not apparent on the ground, the Canning is at a literal crossroads of conservation. The headwaters are protected as wilderness, but as you travel down river we enter the famous 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area Congress has never been able to either permanently protect nor exploit for oil and gas.

In total, you’ll paddle about 90 miles of the Canning, from near the headwaters on the Marsh Fork, nearly to the Coast. This is a moderately difficult trip, not a “float”. We may have to drag the boats over shallow spots; We may have to paddle to get where we’re going, even though the current is always swift. There is Class III whitewater at several points along the river. However, no experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided.

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

Why Go?

  • Fantastic birding, wildlife viewing and hiking
  • Travel through the heart of 1002 Area of ANWR
  • Enjoy the Arctic’s stunning colors of Fall in August



Reservation Request


Location Marsh Fork, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Duration 10 Day Trip
Craft Type Paddle Raft
Activities Paddle rafting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, photography
Route Summary Brooks Range 90 miles to Canning River nearly to the Arctic Coast

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