Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers
9 and 12 day trips
The Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers pour out of the Canadian interior into the Gulf of Alaska. They follow through two of the world’s most spectacular area in the world, Kluane National Park in Canada, and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Following the paths of ancient glaciers, the rivers carry us into the heart of the world’s largest non-polar ice fields. It is a place still caught in the clutch of the last ice age and a place where the awesome forces of glaciation are still at work. It is one of the world’s most beautiful alpine regions.
The Alsek and the “Tat” are two arms of the same river system. The Alsek flows from Haines Junction, in the Yukon, to Dry Bay on the gulf of Alaska. The “Tat” flows from Dalton Post, in British Columbia, to its’ confluence with the Alsek just a few miles upstream of the U.S. Border.
Brown bear, wolves, lynx, wolverine, and black bear flourish in the pristine valley. Moose, ducks, geese, and swans, share marshes and ponds. Eagles, falcons, and a variety of hawks, soar in search of small prey. Kingfishers, jeagers, and arctic terns hover and dive for fingerlings in the river. Salmon battle the swift current of the river to return to the same spawning grounds in which they were born.
Both rivers have whitewater. The Alsek has the largest rapids but the ‘Tat” has perhaps the most fun rapids. The Alsek has Turnback canyon, where the Tweedsmuir glacier has forced the Alsek into a treacherous twisting gorge, full of thundering rapids. It is too dangerous for rafting, so we will use a helicopter to do the 10 mile portage. From the helicopter, we will have a spectacular view of the glacier and the rapids. Choose the one that best fits your schedule, then come back another time and see the other.
We will do as much hiking and exploring as time and weather permit and will experience some of the glaciers that crowd the river’s edge. We will climb high above the river to take in the incredible scenery, and perhaps a close look at the mountain goats or dall sheep. The higher you climb the larger and more impressive the view becomes.
The trips reach their full crescendo at Alsek Lake, where the Grand Plateau and Alsek Glaciers join a face of ice nearly 8 miles wide, encircling a deep lake filled with huge icebergs. We will row among the icebergs and across the lake to the face of the glacier. To see a massive piece of the glacier break off and thunder into the lake is one of those sights you will never forget. To top it all off, towering 15,000 feet above our camp, is the ice capped summit of Mt. Fairweather, the crown jewel of the Alaska coast.
From Alsek Lake the river flows to the ocean at Dry Bay. From there it is a short scenic flight up the coast to Yakutat, where we will catch an Alaska Airlines jet for our return to Juneau.
Which trip to choose? A “Tat” trips covers about 140 miles in 9 days. A trip down the Alsek takes 12 days and covers about 190 miles. Both trips spend 4 or 5 days below their confluence. But above there, they are very different. The “Tat” is more lush and forested, while the Alsek is more barren and glaciated. The “Tat” has more moose, the Alsek more bears. The Asek carries a much larger volume of water and is more remote and unexplored, one step deeper into the ice age. The “Tat” feels more alive, the clutch of the ice further in the past. You can't go wrong!