Tatshenshini-Alsek River Expedition
In the northwest corner of the continent, where the boundaries of British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska converge, the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers flow amidst three-mile-high mountains. The Tat-Alsek river trip is the only river that travels from the interior plateau to the ocean without a major waterfall. Starting as a small creek in the Yukon, the the river doubles in size each day and traverses the largest protected wilderness on the planet. Our trips are designed to allow layover days in the best locations for hiking and wildlife viewing. The St Elias Mountains are home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world. Massive glaciers descend to the water’s edge, shearing off thunderously into calving icebergs. The primeval landscape, dominated by grizzlies, ravens and eagles is wilderness in its purest form.
ROAM’s Tatshenshini trips start in Whitehorse which allows us to use larger aircraft to fly out at the end of the river expedition. This is not a trivial matter, as the larger aircraft have better track records for efficiency and inclement weather but also allows us to carry all manner of fresh fruit, meat, seafood and and vegetables, along with an impressive selection of bottled wines, micro brew beers and liquor. With only 12 guests on the adventure, you will be certain to have an intimate experience as we journey through alpine tundra, past towering mountains with massive glaciers that often reach right into the river, and finally out onto the narrow coastal plain. Come experience this rugged wilderness with the legendary service and hospitality that ROAM’s river trips are known for.
|Trip Length||13 Days|
|Meeting Place||Whitehorse, YK|
|Gateway City||Whitehorse, YK|
- Itinerary at a Glance
- Our adventure begins with a number of lively Class III rapids and a spectacular view of quintessential northern wilderness
- Each day the scenery gets increasingly spectacular as mountains rise to 8000 feet and glaciers hang from every slope
- See bear, moose, goats and perhaps wolves and lynx
- Campsite vistas span the broad expanse of the Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys, flanked by more than 50 different glaciers
- Hike Walker Glacier
- Paddle through the iceberg-laden waters of Alsek Lake
- View the St. Elias Mountains, the largest concentration of high peaks in North America,
- Enjoy a spectacular flight back to Whitehorse
- Experienced professional guides
- Charter flight from Dry Bay to Whitehorse
- Transfer from Whitehorse to the river
- Expedition equipment including: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, floater jacket, rubber boots and dry bags
- All meals on the river
- Beer, wine and some liqueurs
- Park fees and necessary permits
- Detailed Itinerary
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different, depending upon the group, National Park notices, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like.
Today is your arrival day in Whitehorse. After checking in to your hotel, plan to meet us in at 7:00pm in the lobby for a welcome dinner and briefing. Overnight Whitehorse
We will depart at 9:00 AM for the 2 1/2 hour drive to the put-in at Dalton Post. From Whitehorse we’ll head North on the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction and then west along the Haines Road to the Dalton Post turn off. At this old, abandoned trading post, we’ll meet the other guides, load the rafts and leave civilization behind us. This first day, we will run a number of lively Class III rapids through the gorge then emerge, a few hours later, into a wide open valley to see our first views of the mountains with their hanging glaciers. That night, we’ll set up camp at Silver Creek.
Days Three and Four
The river will slow down a little as we float through this incredible valley. Upon entering B.C., the river meanders through lush landscapes and is home to a variety of birds, moose and beaver. The mountains to the southwest will seem to get larger as we pass the river terraces, all the while keeping a watchful eye out for the elusive blue bear, grizzly, mountain goat and wolf. Various tributaries double the size of the river and every turn produces a fantastic panoramic view. We will spend two days stationed near Sediments Creek where we can hike and explore the alpine region’s most diverse ecosystem.
Days Five and Six
We’ll continue down the Tat and stop for lunch at O’Connor Creek. Every day the scenery will get more spectacular; mountains rise to 8,000 feet; glaciers hang from every mountainside. The river valley will continue to widen as we reach our camp near the confluence with the Alsek River. Here there are great hiking opportunities along the river terraces where wildflowers carpet the ground.
Days Seven and Eight
We join the mighty Alsek River flowing from the North as we travel through the braided channels. The river will seem to narrow as the mountains reach for the sky. A 360-degree look will reveal over 50 glaciers as we near our camp at Walker Glacier. We’ll marvel at the crevasses and hike onto the massive moraines. Later, around the campfire, we’ll enjoy some fine scotch with 10,000-year-old ice collected from the glacier earlier in the day.
Days Nine and Ten
Cutting through the Brabazon Range, we’ll pass the massive Novatak Glacier which is the tip of one of the largest ice fields outside of the polar regions. To the south, (at 15,300 ft), Mount Fairweather, the fourth highest mountain on the continent, will dwarf our very existence. Tonight, we’ll camp on the spit that separates the Alsek River from Alsek Lake, a five kilometer lake located at the bottom of the massive Alsek Glacier. In the afternoon, we will paddle out to the edge of the glacier and watch as giant, 100-foot pieces of the ice calve off with a thunderous roar and form icebergs in the lake. Our view from camp is one of the most spectacular anywhere on earth.
Days Eleven and Twelve
We’ll float through the icebergs in Alsek Lake as we make our way south of the Gateway Knob. Cruising in and out of the ice makes for an exhilarating morning and fantastic photographic opportunities. After breaking camp, we’ll float the last miles down to the airstrip at Dry Bay on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Here, we’ll disembark, collapse the rafts and board the plane for the scenic flight over the mountains back to Whitehorse. Once back in civilization, it’s off to the hotel and a well deserved hot shower. Tonight, we’ll all get together for a last toast to the Tatshenshini and plan our next adventure together.
Depart for home at your leisure.
- Camp Set-Up and Whitehorse Hotels
ROAM uses all top-shelf outdoor equipment and we upgrade every few years. The Mountain Hardware 3-4 season tents are spacious and we provide expedition sleeping bags, liners, Thermarest inflatable mattresses, even travel pillows (bring your own lavender eye mask if you must). All this fits into a 110L dry bag which we provide you for your trip as well as a 20L dry sac for smaller items (think of this as your rafting “carry-on”.
We have ample amenities at our travelling camp – we literally bring the kitchen sink! Each day we set up and break down a full camp complete with canvas camping chairs, campfire grill, well stocked bar (did someone say “happy hour”?), and custom expedition tarps should we experience some precipitation.
Please see the “Trip Planner” for a full packing list so you will have all your own bases covered.
- About the Region
Our journey will take us through alpine tundra, past towering mountains with massive glaciers that often reach right into the river, and finally out onto the narrow coastal plain. This is the primeval land of the grizzly, the raven and the eagle; wilderness in its purest form. It has always been difficult to visit this remote corner of the world and settlements are few and very far between. The trappers and prospectors who came through in previous centuries endured extreme hardship to travel in the area -many did not survive. But “The Spell of the Yukon” has always been there and even today, Alaska and the Yukon have a place in the psyche of every adventurous North American.
This trip offers you a way to get completely away from civilization. On the river you will see no cars, no bridges, no wires. You will not hear a telephone or a television. A fax machine will seem as far away as it did 20 years ago. But if you ever thought of this part of the world as empty, a few days on the Tatshenshini will change that impression. Distances between things may be great but the abundance of life that manages to make the most of the short summer and long days will constantly surprise you and you will see why this region has become the largest international wilderness area in the world.
Wildlife and Flora
The valley of the Tatshenshini is a fantastic area for viewing wildlife. Wildlife sightings have included grizzly and black bear, moose, Dall sheep, mountain goat and wolf. Indigenous species also include coyote, lynx, marten and red fox. On the open country we are quite likely to see beaver, arctic ground squirrel and hoary marmot. Feeding on the salmon are many breeding pairs of bald eagles. The occasional golden eagle can also be seen soaring over the canyons of the upper Tat. A variety of hawks and the rare peregrine falcon also call this river valley home. Canada geese and the fish eating merganser are found along the river; while gulls and arctic terns are often seen as well.
While hiking we may come across ptarmigan and many varieties of songbirds. The giant spring or king salmon, coho, sockeye and chum salmon all spawn in the Tatshenshini and its tributaries while rainbow trout and char populate the upper river. Occasionally mosquitoes may be encountered but they are an infrequent annoyance later in the season. The mountain slopes are forested with hemlock, fir and spruce. Balsam, poplar, and cottonwood are found on the alluvial fans and river terraces, while wildflowers such as dwarf fireweed and cinquefoil grace the river’s edge. The alpine meadows are covered with wildflowers such as moss campion and spotted saxifrage.
The Tatshenshini drops 1950 feet from Dalton Post, Yukon to Dry Bay, Alaska and the whitewater section lasts approximately 45 minutes with a maximum gradient of 50 feet per mile. The river itself is characterized as Class III but is misleading because of its remoteness. The upper Tat runs highest in June with the spring snowmelt, yet the Alsek peaks in early July because of melting glaciers. The hotter the weather, the longer the high water will hold, leaving medium to moderate levels for September.
Our put in point at Dalton Post is known to the First Nations as Sha’washe, which hosted one of the region’s largest fishing communities. The Tatshenshini River (called the Alsach before the white man’s arrival) was also a travel route for the Southern Tutchone and Klingit peoples.
- Trip Planner
Planning Your Trip
We have prepared this Trip Planner to help you get ready for the adventures ahead in this truly unspoiled part of the world. We have tried to anticipate questions you might have concerning travel arrangements, what to bring, and getting in shape. If any of your questions remain unanswered, please don’t hesitate to call.
Personal Equipment Notes
The personal equipment list has been developed through years of practical experience. It is important that the clothing you bring will withstand the rigors of the trip. Clothing should be quick drying and be made of synthetics. Warmth and comfort are the main objectives with this outline. Weather conditions can vary considerably in the North. It’s important to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature no matter what Mother Nature may have in store. The inner layer should move perspiration outside, where it can evaporate. The intermediate layer should insulate while the outside layer should act as a barrier to wind and rain.
Good quality rain gear is essential. High quality nylon rain gear is available, but seams should be taped or sealed. Several manufacturers make GORE-TEX waterproof jackets and these materials are lightweight and breathe well. Whatever you choose, the jacket and pants should be compact enough to fit easily into your daypack. It is important when you head out on the trail for a walk that you are prepared for any weather possibility.
Pile or Fleece
The best we’ve found is 200-weight Polar Plus, which is used by a variety of companies. This fabric is warm, dries quickly and is not excessively bulky. It can be found in many different styles and colours.
Synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester and natural fibers like silk and wool work well. Both are quick drying and bacteria resistant, as well. Do not bring cotton long underwear. When wet, cotton dissipates heat from your body and takes a long time to dry.
Choose lightweight, synthetic fabrics that breathe well for warm weather walking. Whatever you choose, be sure you have comfortable freedom of movement, especially for uphill and downhill walking.
Footwear for Hiking and Walking
The importance of good footwear cannot be overstated. What may seem like a good shoe at home could leave you with sore feet on your trip. Given that our trails are often gravelly or sometimes muddy, you need a good walking boot with a firm sole, good ankle support and a degree of water resistance. It’s now easy to find a “hybrid” walking boot, which combines the lightweight, ventilated features of a shoe with the support and durability of a boot. If you buy new walking shoes or boots for the trip, make sure you break them in well before you go.
Bring at least one pair for each day of hiking unless you want to wash them out each night. We recommend synthetic/wool blend as these tend to draw the perspiration from the foot and will keep your feet warm, even when wet. It may be a good idea to bring along some additional items such as foot powder, cushioned pads and/or bandages to place inside your footwear-just in case. Another worthwhile product is something called Spenco 2nd Skin, which provides cushioned comfort with an antiseptic for blistered and sore feet. Many people find a product called moleskin gives them great relief from blisters. The guides carry a blister kit as part of their first-aid supplies.
Bring a daypack that holds approximately 20-35 litres to carry raingear, camera and water bottle.
Personal Equipment List
• 1 pair light hiking boots with appropriate numbers of socks
• 1 pair river sandals (Tevas are great)
• 1 pair of high top rubber boots
• 5-10 pairs warm wool socks
• 2 long-sleeved shirts
• 3 T-shirts
• 3 long underwear tops (synthetic)
• 2 pile or fleece jacket (100-200 weight)
• 1 high quality waterproof rain jacket
• 1 down or synthetic jacket or vest (for camp)
• 3 pairs long underwear bottoms (synthetic)
• 1 pairs of light shorts (quick-drying)
• 2 pairs of quick-dry pants
• 1 pair high quality waterproof rain pants
• i pair insulating pants (fleece or pile)
• Undergarments (ideally 1-2 of them synthetic)
Head & Hands
• 1 sun hat or visor
• 1 wool or fleece hat
• 1 pair of warm gloves
• 1 day pack (for use on day hikes)
• 1 Litre water bottle with securing strap (Camelbacks are great)
• Toiletry kit (biodegradable soap and shampoo, personal medications)
• Small towel
• Sunscreen, lip salve, insect repellent with DEET
• Sunglasses with safety strap and/or extra prescription glasses (if necessary)
• Stuff sacks or plastic bags to separate clothing, etc.
• Notebook, journal, reading material
• Camera (don’t forget extra batteries)
• Binoculars (optional)
• Pocket or Swiss Army knife (optional)
Equipment Provided For You
Expedition quality tent (2-person, shared), deluxe sleeping bag & pad, floater jacket, waterproof gear bags for personal clothing, waterproof day bag, and camp commissary.
Your guides will meet you in Whitehorse the night before your departure. At this time, we will give you waterproof gear bags in which to transfer your personal equipment. Any luggage or clean clothes for immediately after the trip should be stored at your hotel in Whitehorse. The next morning, when we arrive at the headwaters we will transfer the gear bags into the rafts.
Getting Insured -Trip Cancellation Insurance
R.O.A.M. strongly recommends that you purchase trip cancellation insurance. You risk forfeiture of all monies paid, if you cancel your trip. You have the option of purchasing an insurance policy that meets the specific needs of our travellers. http://www.travelinsure.com/what/imedhigh.htm?32931.
Please make sure you understand what the insurance will and will not cover. Please consult the policy for exact coverage, details of other risks insured, and for other benefits and limitations of the insurance.
Getting in Shape
Our trips are designed for people who enjoy the out-of-doors, rather than for fitness fanatics. Still, they are active holidays. Age is unimportant when it comes to your ability to do the paddling or hiking-the more important consideration is your physical condition. If you haven’t attempted the kind of exercise levels required by our trips within the last couple of years, please be aware of the sort of trip you’re taking. It’s an active one, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve been doing some exercise before you go.
Your guides will give you an orientation to expedition practices and teach you all the basic skills that you’ll require to enjoy the different aspects of the trip. Our prime consideration is to provide you with a trip that is as safe and comfortable as possible while still maintaining the integrity of a wilderness experience. Activities that involve aerobic conditioning, such as swimming, walking, jogging, squash, and tennis are great for overall physical conditioning. Keep in mind the relative topography of where you live compared to the region you will be visiting. If you live in flat country, for example, consider supplementing your training with artificial hill training on a treadmill or stair-master.
A Thumbnail Training Program
• Two-three months before the trip starts: try to do exercises that involve aerobic conditioning three times each week-swimming, walking, jogging, squash, cross-country skiing, tennis, biking.
• One month before the trip: go for a couple of longer walks each week.
• The week before your trip: try to go for three long walks.
• Be sure to stretch after exercising-it reduces the chances of injury, muscle pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
To ensure your comfort while in camp, our trips utilize spacious expedition tents, a deluxe sleeping pad, and a warm sleeping bag. In times of inclement weather, we deploy a series of tarps that cover the kitchen and eating areas, allowing a more comfortable and enjoyable camping experience. We are equipped with a propane kitchen, comfortable camp chairs and portable privy. Because we carry ample propane, we will be able to provide clients with a reasonably hot shower each evening in camp.
We use state-of-the-art self-bailing rafts. These rafts have been designed with centre-mount oar rigs giving participants the option of just soaking up the views. For those unfamiliar with self-bailing boats: as water enters the boat, it collects on the inflated floor and then drains out through grommet holes along each side. Self-bailing boats offer invaluable advantages, such as greater portability, stability, capacity and maneuverability.
The Tatshenshini-Alsek is one of the north’s most prolific salmon habitats and commercial fisheries. It has massive sockeye salmon runs and is a spawning ground for chinook and coho salmon. However, because of the glacial run-off from the world’s largest non-polar ice fields the fishing is not great. If you plan on staying in the Yukon before or after your expedition, there are a number of wonderful char, grayling and trout fisheries in the region. We suggest you bring a rod with a case and the smallest of tackle boxes with the appropriate lures or flies.
Average daytime highs in August are mid-sixties (farenheit), while average nighttime lows can creep into the thirties. We will still experience the North’s long hours of daylight but these departures may also witness the dramatic northern lights. There is no guarantee against a few days of overcast weather, rain or even snow, so follow the recommended equipment list, as our experience suggests a multi-layering approach with a range of conditions and temperatures in mind.
There are many ways to arrive in Whitehorse. Some people may choose to access Whitehorse through Skagway via cruise ship or the Alaska Marine Highway System. You can also fly from Vancouver with Air North or Air Canada.
You will need to arrive in Whitehorse the day before your trip begins. The Whitehorse airport is about a ten-minute or $15 taxi ride from the city. The night before your trip, we will meet in the lobby of the High Country Inn at 8:00 PM to go over last-minute details, give out waterproof gear bags and prepare for the next day’s departure to the river. On the first day of the trip, you will need to have an early breakfast, as we’ll depart for the Tatshenshini headwaters at 9:00 AM.
Accommodations in Whitehorse
We recommend the High Country Inn. 1-800-554-4471
Other hotel facilities you may wish to try:
Inn on the Lake B&B (very nice but outside of Whitehorse – need a car) (867) 660 5253
Yukon Inn – 800 661 0454
Westmark Whitehorse (867) 668-4700
The Canadian monetary unit is the Canadian dollar (CDN). Like U.S. currency, coins are the penny, nickel, quarter, the one dollar “Loonie” and two dollar “Twoonie.” The most common bills are 5, 10, and 20-dollar denominations. Avoid carrying large sums of cash at any time during your holiday. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially VISA and MasterCard.
American dollars and traveller’s cheques are accepted everywhere though at exchange rates that thieves envy. When converting American to Canadian dollars, you’ll get the most favourable rates at banks. Most banks are open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday to Friday though some branches stay open later and on Saturday mornings. ATMs are everywhere.
Canada is very safe for travelling, but still there is no point in carrying lots of valuables when travelling. We also recommend that you check your personal insurance policy before travelling to ensure that you are covered for theft and loss while travelling. As a safety precaution, do not travel with excessive amounts of cash or jewellery if it is not necessary.
Canada is officially a bilingual nation with English and French being the two recognized languages. However, the chances that you will hear any French spoken out west are slim. Of course, once you are “oot” and “aboot” on your Canadian holiday, you shouldn’t have any language problems, eh? Once a forbidden subject, it is now okay to speak to Canadians about Olympic Hockey.
A passport is required for all travel to and from Canada.
You’ll be hard pressed to find better water anywhere in the world than in the Tatshenshini-Alsek drainage. The water comes directly from the mountains and is more than potable. In camp we still filter our drinking water, just to be on the safe side.
The Yukon is on Pacific Standard Time, which is the same as Los Angeles.
On our Tatshenshini River trip, we’ll be travelling through environmentally sensitive areas. Our excursions are designed to promote an understanding of the delicate ecosystems that make our country unique while preserving their fundamental integrity. We ask participants to share our concern for the environment by practising low-impact touring in this sensitive area.
R.O.A.M. operates on a “leave-no-trace” policy, meaning we travel in a self-contained manner, carrying in what we require and carrying out all garbage and human waste. Our goal is to immerse our clients in Canada’s vast natural beauty, which, in turn, supports eco-tourism as a viable, economic choice.
Canada’s Goods & Services Tax (GST)
Canada has a Goods & Services Tax (GST) of 5%. However, for non-residents of Canada, most of these taxes can be recuperated. Be sure to keep receipts, and ask customs officials on your departure from the country for the necessary forms and information.
Telephone and Fax
Phoning and faxing in Canada is the same as in the United States. Coin-operated public telephones are the norm in Canada, and there are also phone card-operated machines. To make a local call using coins, the cost is 25 cents. Local phone numbers in Whitehorse do not require the area code. For international calls, you begin by dialling 1, and overseas calls begin with 011.
While on the river, our guides carry satellite communication for emergency purposes. Folks at home can get word to our travelers through our reservations office. The satellite phones are battery-powered and have limited standby and talk times. The phones are used for medical and evacuation purposes only. Should you need a phone at your disposal, you should make arrangements for your own satellite communication. Because of our remote locale, cellular phones are not an option.
Our guides are as impressive as the scenery; passionate about their work, they are delighted to pass on their knowledge and skills. They have an intimate knowledge of a region’s wildlife, natural history, culture and folklore. Trained in wilderness first aid and professionally certified to the highest provincial level in British Columbia, our guides are eager to please and will ensure you have a memorable experience.
Tips and Tipping
• Tipping is common in Canada, and fairly similar to U.S. practices. Of course, there are some exceptions, which we have noted.
• Taxis – 5% is appropriate for good service and 10% is generous.
• Porters – $2 per bag.
• Restaurants – It is appropriate to leave 15% before tax.
The tipping of R.O.A.M. guides is entirely discretionary, and we feel strongly that gratuities should not be offered to them if they lead anything less than a great trip. However, we expect that our guides will do a great job in making your trip memorable and, when they do, it is not uncommon for our travellers to offer a gratuity. The guides very much appreciate it. We are often asked what is appropriate. In general, we have found that when our travellers offer a gratuity, it is in the range of a “thank you” to 10% of the trip cost per person. But again, tipping is entirely at your discretion.