Western Alaska Rafting and Fishing Tour
July 28 - August 4, 2023
Your Next Adventure?
July 28 - August 4, 2023
Trip Start/End City: Anchorage, Alaska
The Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in Western Alaska, with all of its remoteness and solitude, is the background of countless tales. We take you through all the preparation on this trip then lead a rafting trek into a distant wilderness not far from Russia that defines solitude and peace.
This trip is designed for fathers and sons and families/groups with moderate wilderness camping experience. Over the course of seven days, we raft about 90 miles and fish at honey holes that contain salmon and trout. Since Alaska represents the best freshwater fishing within the United States, we ensure that everyone has a chance many/most of the available species and get great photos to go with their great memories.
Reaching the Delta requires more effort than our Himalayan trips, as we must first get to Anchorage before flying another hour and a half west over a mountain range. Then, we shuttle our gear and the group using a small chartered flight to a small gravel landing strip at the headwaters of the Salmon River. We all then assemble and inflate our rafts before putting our equipment in them and starting our float. Before the end of the trip, we will have floated two river systems before we reach civilization again. We camp each night wherever the terrain allows us, and we eat the fish we catch as we float downstream. This is a working trip, nd everyone takes a roll in camp tasks like water filtration, gathering firewood, cleaning our rafts and cleaning the fish. This trip requires a team effort to experience life in the Delta fully.
With sunrise at 5 am each day and sunset not happening much before midnight, this trip is for people who like the light of the outdoors. Fishing is "all you want" once we reach camp and chores are done. In fact, it is common to fish after dinner until bed time.
The physical difficulty level is low; however, it requires a tolerance of all-weather types and a willingness to be prepared. Waders and good rain gear are required, as are shorts and a T-Shirt. Since our charter to the headwaters is a one-way trip, you must have everything you need when we leave, as there is no civilization until we have floated back to the village. Once we hit the confluence of the Aniak, we will go with the flow of specific channels and navigate our way through logjams and debris until we reach the outskirts of the village. The river changes from swift water in the mountains to a gradual slow meandering course in the lowlands. Taiga forest vegetation, including black spruce, birch, aspen, balsam poplar, and alders, lines the banks of Kuskokwim lowland streams. Expect to see bears, moose, and mosquitoes.
Day 0 (pre-trip): Meet in Anchorage, spend the night, and get to know each other. Dinner is NOT included but will be as a group.
Day 1: We take a flight to Bethel. We connect upon arrival to the start of our river system. We leave as soon as the weather allows, sometimes within hours of reaching Bethel. We shuttle people and gear in waves, and we carry our equipment to the edge of the Salmon, where we assemble the rafts, load them, and begin our float.
Day 1-7: We take seven days to float back to Aniak, using the river system as our propulsion mechanism for all but the last day. Each day we raft six to ten hours. We camp anywhere we want at night, rafting at our leisure down the river system. Typically, the first three days are on the Salmon River, and the last three are on the Aniak. We fish for most Pacific Salmon Species (not coho, though) and rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char, Grayling, and Pike. We catch and release all our catches, except for the ones we eat that day.
Day 7: We reach the village and spend a single night at a bed and breakfast.
Day 8: We take a flight back to Anchorage in the morning. We say goodbyes and catch a flight home that evening.
Minimum number of participants: 4
Maximum number of participants: 8
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All-inclusive Trip Cost
Day 1: Meet in Anchorage, spending the night, and getting to know each other. Dinner is NOT included but will be as a group.
Day 2: We take a flight to Bethel. We connect upon arrival to the start of our river system. We leave as soon as the weather allows, sometimes within hours of reaching Bethel. We shuttle people and gear in waves, and we carry our equipment to the edge of the Salmon, where we assemble the rafts, load them and begin our float.
Day 2-8: We take seven days to float back to Aniak, using the river system as our propulsion mechanism for all but the last day. We camp anywhere we want at night, rafting at our leisure down the river system. Typically, the first three days are on the Salmon River, and the last three are on the Aniak. We fish for most Pacific Salmon species (not coho, though) and rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char, Grayling, and Pike. We catch and release all our catches, except for the ones we eat that day.
Day 8: We reach the village and spend a single night at a bed and breakfast.
Day 9: We take a flight back to Anchorage in the morning. We say goodbyes and catch a flight home that evening.
What is included?
-All lodgings and food, in Alaska
-Flights from Aniak to Bell Creek
-Raft rental and cooking gear
-Expert guide service
What is NOT included?
-Flights to and from Anchorage
-Flights to Aniak
-Shipping costs to fly Salmon filets home
Meet Jeff Gaura
Jeff has been visiting rural Alaska for nearly 20 years. He is an Eagle Scout and former Philmont Ranger. He has trekked extensively in the Himalaya. He is willing to share all of his knowledge with you, as well as instruct you as we go in proper etiquette unique to Alaska. .
What is the Fishing Like?
Aniak sits in the heart of the 3 most productive fisheries in western/southwest Alaska ( the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Bristol Bay Drainages), and that position gives us a unique advantage of world class fish volume. Local waters commonly yield 20-30 salmon per day!....not to mention all the rainbows, arctic char, dolly varden, & arctic grayling. King and chum salmon are the first to arrive.... starting their run by the village in mid-June and culminating by the end of July. Reds and pinks are sprinkled in from late June thru early August. Rainbow Trout fishing is second to none, starting in mid-June, with hot fishing all the way into September. Arctic char, dolly varden, and arctic grayling are also caught in abundance until mid-September.
What are lodgings like during the trip?
Lodgings are tents that you bring with you! We recommend a spacious tent, with ample room for you and your stuff, as the ever-changing weather patterns may make for longer stays. Since the sun will not set until you are already asleep, a tent that darkens the outside light and one that has a great rain fly are critical.
What happens if there is a problem and I need to leave early?
Jeff carries a Sat Phone and can call Rob to come and get you, assuming there is a place to land on the river. You will be responsible for all the costs, out of pocket, associated with an emergency evacuation, so travel insurance is important.
What do I do about fishing licenses?
The Alaska department of game and fisheries allows you to buy them online before you arrive, and you can specify the start date. We recommend a 7-day, non-resident license with a King Salmon stamp. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/Store/Home/Guest
How far do we go? How hard is this?
The float from the drop off at Bell Creek back to Aniak is about 85 miles. The river will take us downstream between 2 and 4 miles per hour on all but the last day. The last day requires a lot of rowing (6 hours or so), and we recommend sharing that between all boat mates. Since most of the trip is spent standing in the water with waders or siting in a raft, we consider it to be one of the easier Threshold Tours. However, when we encounter a logjam, it will become difficult as we lift and carry the rafts over the logjam before we continue. Sometimes, these carries can take up to an hour, depending on the size of the logjam and the distance to be covered.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes. You need an adequate travel insurance policy. As a minimum, that policy should provide extensive health/accident/hospitalization cover AND substantial provision to cover your personal liability in the event that you are deemed to be at fault in any accident. Most policies of this type will have some cover to protect you in the event that you need to cancel your vacation, e.g. in the event of sickness, so we recommend that you take out the cover as soon as you book the trip, not just as a ‘last minute’ action immediately prior to travel.
Is there any recommended training I should do before the trip? Your other trips seem to have a lot of recommendations?
No. You need only know how to sit and walk, while wearing neoprene insulated waders.
What kind of gear do you recommend for this trip? Do I need to buy new stuff?
In essence, this is a camping trip with a lot of fishing. We provide the cookware.
Can I bring a gun?
No. We are not insured for firearms, and there may be several youths in the group who are not trained in their use. We believe if we can’t scare a bear away with traditional methods, the odds of a bullet or two being a difference are slim to nil.
What are the bugs like?
It is a partial truth that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito. You must assume that the mosquitoes are present at all times. As such, we recommend chest high waders and a long sleeve top, at all times, as well as a bug net over your head during the morning and evening hours. We also carry 10% or higher DEET based insect repellent on your person, at all times.
What kind of weather gear and conditions do I need to plan for?
Outside of the references to issues with mosquitoes, the second great climatic risk is rain. It is common for a rain to start in Alaska and not end for days. As such, your outer jacket must be ruggedized and able to sustain days of pouring rain. Your waders need to be insulated neoprene, as your feet will be in the water at most times. For under the waders, we recommend shorts on the warmer days and sweatpants on the cooler days. For the top, we recommend a wicking base layer and a long sleeve top that you don’t mind wearing every day. Assume that you don’t do laundry and assume that no one in the group does laundry. As such, expect to smell bad and expect others to smell as you do.
What are the age requirements for this trip?
Since it is not physically challenging like other Threshold Tours, young people as young as 13 can be successful on the Salmon and the Aniak.
We are not in a tent every night, are we?
The night we arrive, we are staying in Anchorage in a hotel. Our last night is at a bed and breakfast in Aniak. All the other nights are in tents.
We will have cell phone coverage during the trip?
No. Alaska has specific carriers that work in the outback. Traditional lower 48 carriers like Verizon and ATT do not offer services in rural Alaska. You will only have coverage in Anchorage. As such, there will be no calls home during the trip, nor will you have the ability to check email or post on social media.