Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (End) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

DAY 9: Walker Glacier to Gateway Knob

Rain dogged us as we ate breakfast, broke camp, loaded the rafts, and started off toward Alsek Lake.  And then the wind picked-up. I have to say that sitting on a cold raft in damp clothes while being flayed by the wind and rain is not my happy place but it did produce a sincere promise to upgrade my rain gear (sorry, but GoreTex just doesn’t cut it under these conditions).  We floated down the Alsek, while cold water found its way into places on my body that I’d rather it didn’t, to a lunch stop just short of Alsek Lake.  Here the Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers flow into the lake, calving off massive chunks of ice and creating a wonderland of icebergs. After lunch, we walked across the peninsula to see the icebergs in the lake.  Seeing the bergs was a major hoped for part of this trip and, although the weather wasn’t cooperating, what we could see of them was pretty special.  Unfortunately, the weather kept us from seeing Mount Fairweather (4,671 m / 15, 325 ft), which rises above the landscape to the southeast. In the desert, The LovedOne has a penchant for finding rattlesnakes. Here, in The North, she found quicksand – fortunately Jock was able to haul her to safety in time – and without loss of her boots!  Cleaned-up and back in the rafts, we worked our way through the icebergs along the west side of Alsek Lake to a campsite at the southern end of Gateway Knob.  Icebergs create unique hazards as they can flip or crack in half causing huge waves and rough water (which a huge one did later directly across from our campsite).  It was still raining on and off, so we set-up camp (including the campfire) under tarps and settled-in for drinks and dinner.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Packing-up at Walker Glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Cue the brave rafter smile
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
We stopped at Dipper Creek for clear water
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The Alsek is a big river and our rafts are small
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Stopping for lunch above Alsek Lake
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Hiking out to see the icebergs
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The Alsek Glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Icebergs (some with horns)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The LovedOne (blue pants) finds the quicksand
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The LovedOne flashes her “quicksand survivor” smile
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Past the icebergs
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Destined to tip
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Beyond most of the icebergs
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
In Alsek Lake just off of Gateway Knob
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the beach at Gateway Knob
DAY 10: Gateway Knob

The rain came and went all day so we were pretty much confined to the tarps, with the occasional foray out to see the sights (overcast and fog permitting). Some of the crew took advantage of a break in the drizzle to be rowed around some of the larger icebergs near camp but the highlight of the day was Kimberly’s polar plunge into Alsek Lake. She had decided that’s what she wanted to do and, with appropriate safety measures, that’s exactly what she did. We all had to put on an extra warm layer just to watch. After that, it was more tarp time and the trip’s final dinner – Greek-style lamb with salad and sides, plus, of course, dessert.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Tarp life at Gateway Knob
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The overcast rose just enough to reveal the snouts of the Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers across the lake
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A closer look at the Alsek and Grand Plateau Glaciers
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Waiting for Mr. Sunshine
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Life in the waters
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Rowing out for a berg close-up
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Kimberly goes for her glacial moment…
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
And she’s done it!
DAY 11: Dry Bay & Return to Whitehorse

We left Gateway Knob earlier than usual because the pilots weren’t sure the weather was going to be good enough later for a landing at the gravel air strip at Dry Bay.  One part of the “adventure” aspect of this trip was in not knowing whether things would go exactly as planned.  Poor weather conditions on the coast could have meant that we wouldn’t be able to get a flight out the day we reached the take-out; we might have had to wait through cold and wet conditions for suitable flying weather.  Oh, goody.  So there was some tension in the air as we floated the last bit of the Alsek to our take-out.  Back in the day, rafts could float a channel almost to the air strip but that channel is now filled-in, so a local guy (Pat) trailered all our gear (it took several trips) the 2 km or so from the beach to the air strip.  There we waited for a couple of hours for the welcome sound of the planes (one for us, another for the gear). After some passes between the low ceiling and the trees (VFR – really?), they zoomed in and landed. Canadian pilots rock! YEAH!  Then it was load ’em up and back to Whitehorse for hot showers and a group dinner at the Coast High Country Inn.  All in all, a truly amazing trip, weather and all!

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Saying good-bye to Alsek Lake
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The final stretch on the Alsek River
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Unloading at Dry Bay; this used to be a channel of open water
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Pat arrives with his ATV and trailer
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
At the campground near the old take-out and air strip
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
One plane has landed and the other is making its final pass before landing
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Heading back to Whitehorse on schedule!
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Coming full circle, we passed over Sediments Creek on the way back

HOME

Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (Days 7-8) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

DAY 7: Melt Creek to Walker Glacier

During the night, the weather Morlocks moved some levers and spun some valves and we awoke to cold, leaden skies – ones eager to give us a wetting. Who’s wearing shorts now little Eloi? Eh? Packing-up and eating breakfast got us warm and, shortly after leaving Melt Creek, we entered the Alsek River, for a dramatic jump in river size and power – the Alsek is over a kilometer wide at the confluence. It’s one of a small number of river systems which breach the coast range and, in 2016, when it captured the flow of the Slims River after the retreat of Kaskawulsh Glacier, became the first (but probably not the last) river to be re-organized by human-caused climate change. For all of its volume and width, the Alsek is heavily braided and surprisingly shallow in many places – it took all of our guide’s considerable skill to keep us afloat and moving (most of the time). As we floated along, the Fairweather Range was on our left and the mountainous glacier country of the Icefield Range was to our right. Below the confluence, and before we rounded The Nose (and crossed back into Alaska and entered Glacier Bay National Park), the Netland Glacier was visible on river left. The rain had the courtesy to hold off until we’d reached camp at Walker Glacier and had gotten our tarps and tents set-up. Then it started-up in earnest and kept on like that on and off all night. Sigh…

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A cold dawn at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
It’ll be a cold day in summer when we leave Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Entering the wide Alsek River
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The challenge here is to find the one channel among many that is deep enough for a raft
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Little rafts on a BIG river in a BIG country
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The Netland Glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Approaching the Walker Glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Landed at Walker Glacier Camp
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Our tents at Walker Glacier Camp
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Life under tarps at Walker Glacier Camp
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The portable groover cover was a bit of joke until we needed it!
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The conversation continues at Walker Glacier Camp (note the lack of shorts and sandals)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The gloom of night falls at Walker Glacier Camp
DAY 8: Walker Glacier

The idea of a lay-over day here was to give us a chance to explore the Walker Glacier. As recently as 20 years ago, camping here would have allowed us easy access to the glacier. Not anymore. Since then things have warmed a bit (Are you seeing a theme here?), causing the glacier to retreat some 2.4 km (1.5 mi) so that it is no longer reachable without considerable effort.  After spits of rain all night, we awoke to what looked like might be clearing weather (or just a sucker hole). This delusion of clearing lured us out of our tents for a hike to see if we could reach the glacier. What followed was a pilgrimage through sole-sucking mud to a lake formed by the glacier’s liquid and solid remnants. Although not a picturesque glacier, these remnants proved to be aesthetically pleasing in their own way. Pluckier members of the crew tried to work their way around the lake in hopes of reaching the glacier itself, but were turned back by inhospitable terrain. Then it started to rain – we had been in a sucker hole! So back through the glop to our tarps and tents, taking with us an appreciation for what temperate rainforest really means.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Should I leave the tent?
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Clearing?
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Clearing or sucker hole?
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the “trail” to the glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Reaching the lake, with the glacier beyond
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The Walker Glacier and the lake holding its remnants
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Another look at the remnants
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Ice in the waters I
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Another look at the remnants
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Ice in the waters II
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The remnants in black & white to capture the prevailing mood
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Marching back through the glop in the rain
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Damp and glop-splattered but still smiling…

HOME

Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (Days 4-6) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

DAY 4: Sediments Creek to Alkie Creek

The plan for the day after the big hike to Goat Ridge was for a leisurely (and short) float to a camp at Alkie Creek. After dragging our sore carcasses out of our Bags of Decadence, we tottered over for another varied and filling breakfast before packing-up and loading the rafts. We were graced with yet another mild (for almost 60º north latitude) and sunny day for our scenic float to Alkie Creek.  Once there, we pitched camp, napped, and/or wandered around (but not too far because of the bears) looking at the landscape. Where we live, creek usually means a waterbody that we can (except during the Spring runoff) either step across or easily wade across.  Here creek is really a river – usually a cold, swift, turbulent, cloudy one that you’d try to cross at your peril.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Morning at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Almost ready to leave Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the river toward Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the river toward Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the river toward Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the river toward Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
On the river toward Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Unloading the rafts at Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Looking toward camp from Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A field of Old Man’s Beard at Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A cloudy, turbulent, cold Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Karen, Jock, and Kim hanging-out at Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Moonrise at Alkie Creek
DAY 5: Alkie Creek to Melt Creek

Today we made the long float (about 45 km / 28 miles) from Alkie Creek to Melt Creek and our last campsite and lay-over day on the Tatshenshini.  The day started out overcast and cold but got progressively better as we floated along.  We bounced through one rapid (Monkey Wrench) before passing the mouths of the O’Connor and Tkpoe Rivers, whose contributions noticeably swelled the volume of the Tatshenshini.  Below the O’Connor, the Tat starts to bend westward and is flowing due west when it reaches its confluence with the Alsek.  We stopped for lunch between Tomahnous and Towagh Creeks and reached Melt Creek in the afternoon.  The waters of Melt Creek (really a river) nearly double the volume of the Tatshenshini just before it joins the Alsek. Because the creek and the river had rearranged the landscape a bit at Melt Creek (something they are always doing), landing there took a lot of paddling, pushing, and scraping. Our reward was the excellent campsites at Melt Creek, which are situated on a large sparsely vegetated, outwash plain that’s easy to pitch tents on and also easy to wander around on (but not too far owing to the bears).

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Sunrise at Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Loading the rafts at Alkie Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating toward Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The sun struggles to make an appearance
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Passing the Alsek Ranges
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Lunch along the river
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Looking northeast from our lunch stop
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Clouds
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating toward Melt Creek after lunch
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Glaciers started to become more obvious as we floated along
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Glaciers
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A tricky landing at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Unloading at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Camping at Melt Creek, with sunset on the Noisy Range
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Camping at Melt Creek, in the shadow of the Melbern Glacier
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
End of day at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Sunset at Melt Creek
DAY 6: Melt Creek

What was magical about camping at Melt Creek was the sense (and the reality) that we were nestled in a bowl, surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges, many with large glaciers. To the north the Noisy Range, to the east the Alsek Ranges, to the south the Fairweather Ranges, and to the west, the Icefield Ranges. These magical aspects were enhanced by the weather, which was almost “desert” warm and sunny for the two days we were at Melt Creek. Campers started to appear in shorts and sandals – not knowing that this was angering the weather Morlocks, who would soon issue us several days of “corrective” (not sunny or warm or dry) weather. But that was in the future, so our days at Melt Creek were spent frolicking in the fields, lounging around camp, and catching up on our float & bloat eating (think Eloi in The Time Machine). We did manage a short hike until we reached the nearly impenetrable vegetation not far from camp – and saw the fresh grizzly tracks along the creek. Our days here were second only to the hike in terms of wonderfulness. Sigh…

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Sunrise at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Brian leads our short hike at Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Followed by the rest of the crew
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
And The LovedOne
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Fresh grizzly bear tracks – why going hiking alone here IS NOT a good idea
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Along the banks of Melt Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Brian, the Noisy Ranges, and Melt Creek on a perfect day in summer

HOME

Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (Day 3) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

On Day 3, we laid-over at Sediments Creek to provide a long dayhike to those interested in doing such a thing; but lounging around camp was also a popular option. The hike (also called the Sobeck Hike after the rafting company that pioneered it) climbs 950 m (3,100 ft) in 5.4 km (3.4 mi) to alpine habitat on Goat Ridge west of the Tatshenshini.  It started with a stroll up the creek cobble and then along a good use trail through a bit of forest, followed by a stiff climb to the “short hike destination” about 200 m above the river.  From there, it was more forest along a ridge, then up a slope covered in short (but bear-hiding) vegetation to an open, rocky area. After a break there, we traversed an open screen slope, then finished with a steep climb (and a tiny bit of scrambling) up to Goat Ridge.  Once up, we wandered across the short alpine vegetation to an overlook of Sediments Creek where it was hoped we’d see mountain goats (this being Goat Ridge and all).  Claims that white dots moving on a far distant ridge were, in fact, mountain goats, were viewed with just a little skepticism. It took some mental gymnastics to come to grips with that fact that we were the only people for as far as the eye could see in any direction from the ridge – millions of hectares of raw wilderness. A little overawed, we headed back. Back in camp, we welcomed drinks, dinner, and talk, followed (soon) by sleep in our fluffy, comfortable sleeping bags (Bags of Decadence).

The weather fully cooperated (it wouldn’t always be so obliging) to make this challenging hike one of the absolute highlights of the whole trip! It gave us a good work-out (no float & bloat here) along with amazing views north and south along the Tatshenshini River Valley, across to Carmine Mountain, and down into the upper Sediments Creek drainage. We saw one black bear for sure and, if dots are goats, then mountain goats too.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Morning at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The morning light illuminates our hiking destination
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A field of Old Man’s Beard in the early light
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Must…put…on…boots…
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Packing our lunches
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Up along the creek cobble
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Through the forest
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
And up the slope
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
View upriver from the short hike destination
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Still smiling with 750 m of climbing ahead
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Back into the forest along the ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
View north from the ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Through fireweed toward the rocky, open slope; our goal is the notch (arrow)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Taking a break on the open, rocky slope (arrow points to our camp)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Traversing the upper scree slope
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Traversing the upper scree slope
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Up toward the notch in the ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A little bit of scrambling on slippery rock
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Near the top of the notch
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Topping out on Goat Ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The view north from Goat Ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Looking into the braided upper drainage of Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Returning across Goat Ridge
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Back down the notch (arrow points to our camp)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
And down the scree slope, with a view to the south…
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The afternoon view north from the rocky, open space
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Glad to let Brian walk point through the bear patch
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Down the first steep slope
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
The LovedOne flashes her brave hiker smile just short of camp

HOME

Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (Days 1-2) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

DAY 1: Dalton Post to Silver Creek

After gathering in Whitehorse, we drove to Haines Junction to caffeinate and carbo-load at the Village Bakery.  From there it was an out-and-back drive to the U.S. border to have our passports checked. You used to be able to phone this in but now its an extra 150 km (90 mile) of driving to appear in-person, for no discernible reason (ah, but then security has its own logic). From the border, we doubled back to the put-in at Dalton Post (Shawashee), a historic trading post (although old Dalton may have been more of a bandit than a trader) now on lands legally owned by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. From here it would be 246 river km (150 river miles) to the take-out at Dry Bay, Alaska. There was the usual scramble as both new and experienced rafters figured out how to get their stuff (including extra clothing necessitated by the weather) into one big yellow dry bag. The issuance of tall rubber boots and extra fluffy sleeping bags were sure signs that this was not going to be a “desert” river trip.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Getting organized at the put-in at Dalton Post
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Our first look at the Tatshenshini
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
A quick talk from Andrew about the river ahead
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Finally, we’re on the river!

All of the significant whitewater on this trip is concentrated in a six-mile long canyon just below Shawashee (Dalton Post), so we got most of our rapid experience on the first day. This section offers continuous Class III whitewater, with Class IV at high water (International Scale, Class I-VI). Below Silver Creek, the river is typically Class II with large eddies and folds at normal volumes. There are a few rapids but generally the river features strong currents and eddy lines as it grows to an impressive size.  We sat in the back of the raft today because it’s easier to take photos from there and being drenched with melted glacier water wasn’t immediately appealing.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Into the rapids below Dalton Post
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Candace takes one for the team!
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
And another!

After these moist moments, the Tatshenshini settled down and we proceeded with a leisurely float to our first camp at Silver Creek. The guide’s skill here is not only in negotiating rapids but also in reading a river with numerous braided channels and gravel bars and other obstructions that are constantly changing.  The highlight of the day was a grizzly bear that swam across the river just after we passed her standing on the bank.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating toward Silver Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Landing at Silver Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Around the “campfire” at Silver Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Why we raft

It had been a pleasantly cool day on the water and, while clouds had come and gone, the only wetness had come from the rapids. Even the biting flying insects cooperated by only being annoying rather than overwhelming. After libations, an excellent dinner (one of many), and some congenial conversation, we called it a day.

DAY 2: Silver Creek to Sediments Creek

It had rained a bit overnight but we awoke to overcast, but otherwise dry, skies. After breakfast (and a moment of panic when it looked like we’d forgotten the bacon – we hadn’t), it was back in the rafts for an easy float to our first layover camp at Sediments Creek. Not long after leaving Silver Creek, we passed the Bridge River and crossed from the Yukon Territory into British Columbia.  Because of the ever changing nature of the river, we had to line-in the rafts to make a landing a Sediments Creek – one of several firsts for us on this trip.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Morning at Silver Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Breakfast at Silver Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating along under cloudy skies
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Stopping for lunch near Low Fog Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating along under clearing skies
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Floating along with triangular Carmine Mountain in the distance (on the right)
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Jock lining-in his raft at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Landed at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Camped at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Getting in a little field knitting before dinner at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
End of day at Sediments Creek
Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Sunset on Point 6342, northwest of Carmine Mountain

The day had started out overcast but, by the time we made camp, clouds had yielded to clear skies and it looked like the morrow would be clear and sunny. This was a good thing since we were laying-over here to do our big hike of the trip – a visit to the alpine zone above the river with (maybe) some sightings of mountain goats. So, drinks, dinner, conversation, and sleep, with dreams of sunshine…

HOME

Rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (Overview) 13/25-Aug-2018

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

In the last 20 years or so, we’ve had the opportunity to float (raft/canoe/kayak) some of the great rivers in the U.S. – the Colorado River from Lees Ferry through the Grand Canyon to Diamond Creek, Southern Oregon’s Rogue River, the lower Green River in Utah, the Middle Fork and Main Stem of the Salmon River in Idaho, and the upper Yampa River in Colorado. The one thing all these have in common is that they are in the drier regions of the western U.S. – some might call them warm “desert” rivers. Our search for a rafting trip in a different location and climate took us to an 11-day adventure on the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers, which are large volume, swift glacial rivers in Canada and Alaska.

They flow through Kluane National Park (Yukon Territory), Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park (British Columbia), and Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska). To ensure the preservation of the entire ecosystem, both rivers are completely protected from headwater to source, creating the only large river drainage in North America that is completely safeguarded. Many consider this one of the finest wilderness river runs in North America. Our journey down these truly wild rivers presented us with uncommon environmental diversity, massively impressive scenery, and an outstanding wilderness experience. We had been told to be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions and the trip offered up sunshine, heat, fog, glacial chill, rain, and icebergs – these are definitely not “desert” or “warm” rivers!

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Overview of our trip to and from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

We booked this trip through OARS (who we’ve gone on several trips with previously) but it was run by ROAM, a Canadian adventure travel company based in Nelson, British Columbia. The depth of experience, positive attitude, and professionalism of our ROAM guides (Brian, Jock, and Andrew) was impressive.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Our ROAM guides (L-R): Andrew, Jock, and Brian

And that, along with a very congenial group of fellow rafters, made this a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Tatshenshini River Alsek River Yukon Territory Canada Glacier Bay National Park Alaska
Our group at Walker Glacier on the Alsek River

For easier access to the details of this excellent adventure, we spaced this trip out from put-in to take-out over five posts keyed to our campsites along the rivers:

HOME