Canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon rivers
Canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon rivers is frequently included in “best of” lists around the world. And with good reason. This is a paddler’s paradise offering world-class whitewater action on pristine wilderness rivers.

The Yukon is home to an unusually high number of Canadian Heritage Rivers. The Thirty-Mile rushes through the scenic and historic stretch of the Yukon River below Lake Laberge. The Alsek and Tatshenshini rivers course through Yukon’s Kluane National Park and B.C.’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park past calving glaciers and inspiring mountain scenery. The Bonnet Plume is loved by canoeists from around the world for its challenging whitewater and outstanding wilderness setting.

Here’s E.D’s guide to canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon rivers and what awaits for those bravest enough to take on the challenge.

Yukon

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The most friendly of the rivers, and generally regarded as the best place for those who’ve mastered the basics. At 1,980 miles, it is the fifth longest river in North America, and flows from Tagish Lake on the BC/Yukon border through Yukon and Alaska to finally drain into the Bering Sea. Rich in cultural history ranging from its first human use by First Nations people centuries ago, to the Klondike gold rush of 1898 – the biggest rush for gold the world has ever seen, Yukon provides modern day adventurers one of the ultimate river trips on the planet.

DIFFICULTY

(Class II)

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

The river is often navigated between Whitehorse and Dawson City in two eight-day stages. The first section is from Whitehorse to the Village of Carmacks, and is around 200 miles long. The following section is from Carmacks to Dawson City, adding another 260 miles to your journey. Five Finger Rapids is a particular highlight.

The Tat”

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Located in the southwestern corner of Yukon where the borders of British Columbia, Alaska and Yukon meet, the Tatshenshini River flows through the St Elias Mountain range with peaks nearly 5000m high. Flowing through the largest protected area on the planet, this is one of North America’s wildest rivers with exhilarating rapids, canyons, soaring mountains, and unequalled opportunities to view big game including Dall’s sheep, woodland caribou and moose, while peregrine falcons, bald eagles, golden eagles, goshawks soar overhead. Be warned, there’s even grisly bears on the loose. One of the highlights is the opportunity for rafters to float on a stunning, iceberg-filled lake.

DIFFICULTY

(Class III – IV)

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

The time it takes varies, but trips can take up to 11 days to complete the 160-mile route.

The Alsek”

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Flowing amid the highest mountains in Canada, past the world’s largest and longest mountain glaciers, under the gaze of grizzly bears, the Alsek rises in the mountains of Kluane National Park Reserve – a World Heritage Site. Its braided upper reaches nestle in a broad valley, providing an oasis for mountain goats, Dall’s sheep and other wildlife. Downstream, rivers of ice flow into the Alsek’s silt-laden waters, calving huge icebergs into the river. The Alsek’s remoteness, beauty, and wild rapids tug at the heartstrings of adventurous river travellers. Highlights include the Lowell Glacier.

RIVER DIFFICULTY

(Class IV, plus some V – VI)

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

The river is around 175 miles long, which flows through British Columbia and Alaska. Excursions usually cover this in around 10 to 12 days.

The Snake”

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Located in northeastern Yukon, the Snake River descends 2,500m from the arctic tundra of the Wernerke Mountains to join a vast wilderness watershed that flows north to Mackenzie River and the Beaufort Sea. The Snake is a wild river that flows through untouched wilderness. It also offers outstanding wilderness hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.

RIVER DIFFICULTY

(Class II – III)

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

The river is over 300 miles long, and excursions can last for anywhere up to three weeks. Described as “lively”, this river challenge is better suited to intermediates.

Canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon rivers

Picture: Gov’t of Yukon

Bonnet Plume

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The Bonnet Plume River descends from the rugged Wernecke Mountains carving out a magnificent, wide valley and crossing a lowland plain, heading west and north towards its confluence with the Peel River. The diversity of wildlife, vegetation and scenery of this expansive and beautiful region provides an exceptional opportunity for visitors to appreciate the character of Yukon wilderness. The Bonnet Plume River stands out as one of the premier whitewater wilderness canoe rivers in Canada. It is technically challenging with frequent Class II and III rapids as well as isolated locations of Class IV and V. The river also offers excellent camping locations and opportunities for scenic day-hikes, particularly in the alpine areas, which are readily accessible from the river.

RIVER DIFFICULTY

Class II / III rising to Class IV and V

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

One for advanced paddlers, this fierce river contains some very tricky patches of whitewater, and extends to 350 miles, which can be covered on excursions of up to 20 days.

Firth River

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The Firth River is a world-class whitewater river of exceptional beauty flowing through the heart of Ivvavik National Park, which is located in the far north of Yukon. The river is a remote Class IV wilderness river with cold water, strong eddy lines and 28 miles of canyon. There are numerous Class III and Class IV rapids along the river.

RIVER DIFFICULTY

Class IV

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

The Ivvavik National Park offers exceptional hiking opportunities, and the trip will often be split between the two disciplines. The total trip can take up to 11 days to complete the 150-mile stretch.

Who to book with

There are numerous companies offering packages for canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon rivers. Two that come recommended include Artisan Travel, who provide a 10-day “Canoe Adventure on the Yukon River” package  (www.artisantravel.co.uk.) and Wildlife Worldwide, who offer an eight-day “Canoeing the Yukon River” package to the Yukon. (www.wildlifeworldwide.com).

Share: