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Kugururok River in Alaska

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

NW Alaska; Kugururok River (Noatak Preserve)

All the logistics from my Kelly River Review apply here. These rivers are 20-30 miles apart and both tributaries of the lower Noatak River about 70 miles N of Kotzebue in NW Alaska. Both rivers are in the Noatak Preserve.

This is a beautiful place. We did not see another person for 13 days on this river. Spent 7 days on the Kelly and saw no one. Not even a sign of another man. Not so much as a tin can in 20 days. Lots of Caribou. Brown bears, moose, wolf, all likely as well. Good fishing on this river for dolly varden above Trail Creek.

On the Kugururok when we got below Trail Creek, the fishing was poor. But it was very good at and above it. The river, much like the Kelly, is gin clear and intimate in size at about 30-40 yards. Easy paddling most the way but there are a few rocks to avoid. The canyon section (5 miles of 12 foot+ granite wall lining the river) had some II rapids and some standing waves. We took on 90 liters of water one time but our Ally pack canoe stayed the course. I love that canoe! Made in Norway, they are the perfect boats for remote trips like this.

The trip is about 45 miles long and would make a nice week trip. We spent 13 nights and glad I did to allow for extra fly fishing time and some off river excursions. Beautiful tundra all over and very expansive mountain views. Lots of archaeological interest in the area as well. 10,000 years worth of Inupiat history there. Old hunting grounds, burial sites, etc A fascinating place that deserves to be untouched. Only viewed and admired.

We saw the northern lights at night. And the air is so clear you can see satellites passing by. Takes about 20 seconds to go over the sky. Neat to watch. We saw Mars low in the sky. My buddy Joe said it looked like a lantern hanging in a tree. It was huge!

This is a hard place to describe. If you want a remote and scenic trip, this is the place. Relatively easy float as well. It was a little rough at times for us but it rained for several days before we got there and one or two once we arrived. That is another reason to allow a few extra days. We camped at one spot 3 days waiting on the levels to drop. This is the kind of place you feel lucky to have visited.

General Comments:
Basic outdoor skills, extra fuel/food, good stove(x2) and water filter (MSR) wind proof clothing, polar fleece, breathable fishing waders, gps, and wind resistant tent design that is fully waterproof. We used Black Diamond guiding light with great results. The rain fly model tents will drive you crazy with the wind flapping the fabric. A single wall tent is ideal. That will allow you to more easily hear any night time visitors. Lots of bears in that area even though we had no encounters on this trip. Two years earlier we saw 21 on the Kelly. Take a gun or ear plugs. You will need one or the other to facilitate sleep. Ha ha. In all seriousness, the bears we saw have always walked away or ignored us. The more time I spend up in Alaska, the more comfortable I become. I think we perceive them to be a much greater threat than they actually are. Just keep a clean camp, keep food smells off you and your clothes, and give them their space. The wildlife adds to the trip.

More photos of this August 2006 trip are available on Flickr:


Hageland Aviation in Kotzebue: Pilot is Eric Sieh -- Great guy. Great pilot.


Leave it like you find it.


Anchorage to Kotzebue (Alaska Air flight) then bush plane drop off on the river. Float down and get picked up at a predetermined spot at the confluence of the Noatak. 10 days would be ideal if you fish/hike some on the way down.


USGS maps from University of Alaska in Fairbanks

email me at for more info/pics

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Extended Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location