Alatna - through Gates of the Arctic National Park

Alatna, Alaska, US


through Gates of the Arctic National Park

Usual Difficulty I(II) (for normal flows)
Length 203 Miles
Avg. Gradient 12 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm

Upper Alatna River below Gaedeke Lake ~ 5 miles

Upper Alatna River below Gaedeke Lake ~ 5 miles
Photo by Mark McKinstry taken 05/06/14

River Description

This federally-designated Wild and Scenic river orginates near the headwaters of the Noatak, in Gates of the Arctic National Park. This is one of the most remote wilderness regions on the planet and the river is the best means of experiencing the landscape. The river meanders through the Endicott mountains and through a boreal forest and taiga before it ends at the village of Allakaket, located at the river's confluence with the Koyukuk River.

There are some more challenging sections upstream of the confluence of Arrigetch Creek including a short stretch of class III above Ram Creek that you can portage. The pace of the river mellows considerably once you reach Arrigetch Creek which is one popular option as a starting point for river trips. The river valley provides excellent opportunities for hiking and camping. Just be aware of the fact that the river can rise quickly.

Take a commerical flight from Fairbanks to Bettles and then arrange a bush plane for a flight into the park. You will also need to arrange a pick-up. The listed put-in coordinates are a lake at the headwaters of the river in Gates of the Arctic National Park.  The takeout coordinates are at the town of Allakaket on the Koyukuk River just downstream of the Alatna confluence.

Brown Bears are common in this area.  Food storage and cooking must be separate from sleeping areas.  Bear spray and guns are required for self protection.

Additional Information
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Alatna River: Gates of the Arctic
American Whitewater Journal, Sept/Oct - 2010
Alaska Impressions - Alatna River 2011: Youtube slide show
Alatna 2009, Slideshow.pdf

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-05-12 23:45:02

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Lake GaedekeN/APutin Photo
51.0Arrigetch CreekN/APhoto
68.0Takahula LakeN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Lake Gaedeke (Class N/A)

Put in Lake Gaedeke

Put in Lake Gaedeke
Photo by Mark McKinstry taken 05/06/14

This lake is near the headwaters of the Alatna River.  Several other rivers originate in the same area, but generally flowing north to the Arctic Sea, while the Alatna flows south.  The elevation is 2800 feet.

Arrigetch Creek (Class N/A, Mile 51.0)

Arrigetch Peaks from Alatna River

Arrigetch Peaks from Alatna River
Photo by Mark McKinstry taken 05/06/14

The Arrigetch Peaks and Aquarius Valley are a popular side hike from the Alatna River.

Takahula Lake (Class N/A, Mile 68.0)

This lake is large enough for float planes to land and it is a short, 1/4 mile portage from the river.  Takahula can be used as a take out, put in or resupply point.  The elevation is 854 feet.  The river gradient from here to Allakaket averages 3.4 feet per mile for 130  miles.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 6 2014 (1716 days ago)
Mark McKinstryDetails
In August of 2009 6 of us did a 14 day trip from the put in lake at the pass to Takahula. We hiked
in the Arrigetch peaks area for 4-5 days as well. We took ICs, IKs, and a small mini-me raft. All
boats had small oaring frames. Flows were low coming out of the lake and we dragged the entire 3
miles, but once we hit the confluence with another stream we were able to float more. The fishing
was only good at the put in lake because a Mtn. had slid into a side drainage and changed the
chemistry of the water and it was no longer a salmon river. We also fished in Takahula, and in a
couple side lakes and streams for grayling. No major rapids, but it does drop 50-100 feet/mile. We
saw nine grizzly bears, and we were charged by one as we drifted into a rapid. He was on the side
of the river in the alders and we did not see him till we were 25 yards away. Carry bear spray
and/or a gun!!! We also saw herds of caribou migrating through. Amazing scenery and an amazing
trip. We have also done the Kobuk, which is on the other side of the pass at the top, and it is
also great, although it is bigger and has better fishing, but it does not go through mtns like the
Alatna does. Make sure to hike in the Arrigetch Peaks area--truly amazing. 2,000 foot granite walls
that go straight up from your feet. I think it is more impressive than Yosemite, with no one there!
I wrote an article about the trip in the Sept-Oct issue of American Whitewater Journal, pages
18-24. Get it online at