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rafters, hiker, viewing lake, tentsArctic National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge Information | Wildlife | Habitat | People
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Why we archived the ANWR website at MapCruzin.com

Rivers

General Information

Most refuge rivers are relatively swift with boulder-strewn or braided gravel beds, especially on the north side. Water quality is excellent, although rivers are high and turbid during breakup and after storms. Some rivers carry glacial silt in summer.

Rivers must be evaluated and run according to conditions at the time. River ratings are subjective and can change with the stage of the river.

Rivers are generally open June through September, but the safest water levels occur in July and early August. Floaters and hikers should be aware of above-average flows which can occur any time, especially after heavy rains upstream. Low water can occur in August, but is usually not a serious problem. It is generally possible to line through or portage around the most difficult sections. Breakup occurs during May and early June, depending on the location. Rivers are often at flood stage during this time with ice floes and "aufeis" that make floating hazardous.

Aufeis are thick layers of ice formed by successive freezing of stream overflows during winter. During breakup, rivers carve vertical walled canyons through aufeis fields that can be more than a mile long. In early summer, it can be dangerous to travel through these areas. By mid to late June, the channels are usually open enough to allow passage. However, aufeis fields can be dangerous any time if river levels rise. Visitors should scout all aufeis fields prior to floating to make sure the river is not flowing under or through tunnels in the ice.

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Canning and Marsh Fork of the Canning

The Canning is the longest north flowing river on the Refuge. Both the Canning and its major tributary, the Marsh Fork, have good headwaters access and flow through scenic, glaciated valleys. Through the mountains, the Canning has a mostly flat, steady current. The Marsh Fork has short stretches of whitewater. About 15 miles before it empties into the Beaufort Sea, the Canning becomes very braided, widening to three miles near the coast.

Coleen

This clear and shallow river flows south through scenic country on the east side of the Refuge. Its upper reaches are braided and have poor access. Although its forested middle and lower sections have good access, the Coleen is one of the refuge's less floated rivers.

East Fork of the Chandalar

From its high mountainous headwaters, this river flows swiftly south through a wide, mountain-rimmed valley, then meanders through a forested, lake-dotted area. The river flows past Arctic Village and is a highway to subsistence hunting, fishing and trapping areas.

Hulahula

Beginning in the highest peaks of the Brooks Range, this river flows north through steep-walled glacial valleys, then winds through the coastal plain to the Beaufort Sea. Due to its scenery and access, the Hulahula is the second most floated river on the Refuge. Swift and turbid with glacial silt, it also is the most challenging of the regularly run north slope rivers. At average flow rates, waters are generally class I and II, but there are stretches of class III. A narrow pass across the continental divide between the headwaters of the Hulahula and Chandalar Rivers provides a natural hiking route and a frequently used corridor for aircraft.

Ivishak

A designated Wild river, the Ivishak flows north some 60 miles from the Philip Smith mountains. Fed by relic hanging glaciers, the Ivishak develops a broad, braided flood plain typical of other north slope rivers on the Refuge. Although the river is scenic, its shallow water, poorly defined channel and marginal access result in low use by floaters.

Kongakut

This is the only major river whose entire course is within the refuge's designated wilderness. Beginning high in the eastern Brooks Range, the Kongakut flows east and then north through rugged mountains to the coastal plain and the Beaufort Sea. Clear water, scenery, wildlife, fishing and access combine to make the Kongakut the most floated river on the Refuge. At average flow rates, its waters are generally class I and II, but there are stretches of class III.

Okpilak

The silt-laden Okpilak begins in the heart of the most active glacial area of the Refuge. The river flows north through a classic U-shaped valley containing moraines, fans, sand dunes and other glacial features. The upper river is too dangerous for river floating and there is no aircraft access, but the area offers hikers an uncommonly tranquil and scenic experience.

Porcupine

The Porcupine is one of the largest tributaries of the Yukon River and a historically important travel route. Single-channeled and clear-flowing, this mostly flatwater river flows through the Refuge past beautiful steep-walled canyons, rolling hills and cliffs before meandering across the vast wetland basin of the Yukon Flats.

Sheenjek

This glacial-fed river drains the south side of the Brooks Range's highest mountains. A designated Wild river, the Sheenjek flows through dramatic mountains and forested foothills to join the Porcupine River in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Single-channeled with numerous access sites, the Sheenjek is the most popular of the refuge's south-flowing rivers. Most of the river is class I but there are short sections of class II.

Wind

This designated Wild river begins across the divide from the headwaters of the Ivishak and flows southeast to join the East Fork Chandalar. Open tundra valleys fringed by limestone and shale mountains characterize its upper reaches while forested hills, lakes and meadows dominate the lower river. The Wind is seldom floated due to its normally shallow water.

Other rivers

The Aichilik, Egaksrak, Firth, Jago, Katakturuk, Sadlerochit, Tamayariak and Junjik rivers are scenic and have good wildlife viewing, but they are not generally good for floating due to low water levels, extensive braiding and/or lack of good aircraft access.

Refuges: where wildlife comes first

Refuge Information | Wildlife | Habitat | People
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Text and graphics by USFWS staff
Last modified 28 July 2000

Why we archived the ANWR website at Mapcruzin.com

Note: This is the MapCruzin.com archive of the FWS Arctic National Wildlife Refuge website. In December, 2001 FWS took this website offline, making it unavailable to the public. It includes 90 plus pages of information and many maps. As of 2006 the important information contained in this, the original "unsanitized" version of the FWS website, has yet to return to the internet, so we will continue to maintain it here as a permanent archive to help inform activists and concerned citizens. If you find any broken links, please report them to me at mike@learn2map.com and I will attempt to make the repairs. January, 2008 update - A small part of the original information that was present in 2001 has made it back into the current ANWR website. There is also an archive that contains a small amount of the original information, but it is not readily available from the main website.

Click here to visit our homepage. Click here for NRDC's message about ANWR from Robert Redford.

For more information on why this website was "pulled," Check here. And, you can also view the maps of caribou calving areas that the FWS did not want you to see here.

January 29, 2008: Visit Our New ANWR News for Updates


This page should be cited as follows:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2001. Potential impacts of proposed oil and gas
       development on the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain: Historical overview and
       issues of concern. Web page of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
       Fairbanks, Alaska. 17 January 2001. http://arctic.fws.gov/issues1.html


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