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Thread: Noatak Float

  1. #1
    Member AkGreg's Avatar
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    Apr 2007

    Default Noatak Float

    Anyone have any decent intel on floating the Noatak in Mid-sept?? We are flying out of Kotz and will be dropping off just above the Sapun crk junction.

    research so far shows an easy class I with some potential class II around the noatak grand canyon.....

    any first hand feedback would be greatly appreciated.... thanks folks.


  2. #2


    been on it for a few miles only when coming off a trib for pick up. mind numbing and way too easy of a float. kind of like floating on a moving lake. the scenery is a long way off too. for years i wanted to float the whole river but realized after being on it for just a few miles that I had seen enough. really boring compared to what else is available and the expense.

    you should contact that guy who has the site too. he posts here time to time I think and floated the whole thing last summer. very nice guy. i think he blogged the trip on his site somewhere.

  3. #3


    here it is:

    and don't forget your fur lined jock strap too if going mid sept!!!!

    i should add that we flew over about 65 miles of it on the way back and i really didn't see anything different from what i experienced while floating it for those few miles...big and boring.

  4. #4
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Noatak River

    I'll agree with indyjones in that the river itself is often not too dramatic and I had stretches where I really had to fight the wind. But in that stretch you are talking about I saw many caribou, along with musk oxen, grizzlies and wolves. The shot/video at the top in that link indyjones posted was taken in that stretch. These black wolves chased a caribou right down to the edge of the water and watched as the caribou swam right past my boat. I also had a grizzly come running towards me and heard wolves howling. Now that's wilderness!

    The fishing was very good. I caught a lot of good-sized grayling and chums in that stretch and hooked a few char, too although I did best for char a bit lower down.

    I believe I only saw one jet boat until I got to Noatak Canyon, and saw them with more frequency below that point. Still, there weren't enough power boats to be annoying for me and I found the locals to be very friendly.

    I used a Soar Pro Pioneer and had no trouble with any rapids. I'd expect quiet a few people expecting mellow water the whole way have flipped canoes on the Noatak, because there are sections of rapids in places (I saw one abandoned canoe with a big hole in it,) but in general it's a very easy float and I had no trouble in that boat.

    Although I saw a pile of caribou, grizzlies, musk oxen and wolves, I was surprised to see absolutely no moose on the whole float.

    All in all, I really enjoyed floating the Noatak and plan to go up there again someday for caribou and fishing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by indyjones View Post
    here it is:

    and don't forget your fur lined jock strap too if going mid sept!!!!
    You got that right! Starting in mid-sept makes it a winter trip!

  6. #6
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    Anchorage, Alaska

    Default Noatak River Information

    I've float hunted the Noatak several times and would not say that it's a boring float at all. The river is mostly Class I, but I've seen the canyon up to a Class III at times. A good rain can do that to a river the size of the Noatak. But the real attraction is the beauty of the Arctic itself. You will enjoy endless vistas of the mountains of the Brooks Range to the north, and rolling hills to the south. The area is one of the prettiest places in Alaska.

    Of course you know that below Sapun Creek you will have to take out via commercial aircraft in the village of Noatak, or take out via powerboat; because of the no-fly zone. Conceivably if you have an outboard you could make the run to the mouth and across Kotzebue Sound to Kotzebue, but I wouldn't risk it. Caribou hunting up there should be pretty good about that time, but one year we had early freeze up and the river was running slush and had ice shelved out about fifteen feet from the bank. That year we couldn't even get the boats in the water. We stayed anway and did a drop camp near the Kelly River confluence, and it so happened that we ended up in the middle of a massive migration. It was probably the best caribou hunt I've ever been on. Keep in mind though that the timing of the migration is highly variable, consisting of large pulses of animals that may hang up anywhere at any time for any reason (or none at all). Getting into a migration is a bit like winning the lottery up there.

    It will likely be around freezing at night, with cold winds during the day. Because the country is mostly open, you will have wind most of the way. Make sure you wear a stocking cap or a balaclava with windblock. A ball cap will probably blow right off your head. There are lots of willow patches along the river, so just about any sort of tent will work, assuming you have a better brand. Don't bring junk tents! When you get down to the Kuguroruk and Kelly confluences you'll pick up a lot more timber, which runs out away from the river a mile or more in places. Beyond that it's rolling tundra.

    Caribou will be just going into rut, so pick your animals carefully or you could end up with one you cannot eat. This is a serious issue with late-season caribou and it's no joke. There are some bulls you simply will not be able to eat.

    Drop me a pm and I'd be happy to discuss this area in more detail with you, and it won't cost you more than a phone call.

    You're gonna love this hunt.

    Pick up a wolf tag or two while you're at it. You might get lucky.


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  7. #7
    Member danattherock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Noatak

    I have floated the Kelly and the Kugururok and had great trips on both. We went mid August and the focus was fishing for dollies. We caught some in the 10 lb range. Great fishing for dollies/grayling up there. In mid/late August, we had 1/4" of ice in the dishes when we woke on a few mornings. If you are thinking about a mid September trip, expect some cold weather. Since our trip on the Kugururok last August, we have bought windproof everything. The wind chilled us to the bone on about half the days we were there. We got Windsear stuff from Cabelas and it is high quality and I would recommend it to you for your trip. We will be floating the Goodnews in SW Alaska next week and while it wont be nearly as cold as what you will see, I feel good about the windproof clothes. As for the Noatak scenery, I can see both sides of the previous post. While it is a big, wide river, there would surely be some nice scenery along the way. But from what I have seen at the end of both my Noatak tributary trips, the scenery may become lackluster after a few days. Everything is far away from the river. The exception may be the canyon area. I have read/heard it is pretty cool. I would like to see that myself someday. But most of the length of the Noatak would probably look the same from what I have seen. Both the Kelly and the Kugururok offered lots of wildlife. More expansive mountain views were seen on the Kugururok. And both offered solitude. We spent 7 nights on the Kelly and 12 nights on the Kugururok and never saw another person. That was one of my favorite parts of the trips. Walt Maslen rents quality equipment in Kotz and is a great source of info on trips in NW Alaska, aside from generally being a super nice guy. His website is and he also frequents this forum under the same name. He offered us lots of info for our recent Kugururok trip and is very knowledgable. For bush pilots, we chose Eric Sieh at Hagland Aviation in Kotz. He came highly recommended and did a fantastic job. I would not leave Kotz with anyone else. Lots of guys operate out of Kotz in Sept, but Eric lives/works there year round. Great pilot, great guy. He, or Walt, could give you lots of info on the trip you want to take as well as offer other suggestions. If you want any info or pictures from the Kelly or Kugururok, shoot me a pm and give me your email address. Beautiful country up there and depending on what you are wanting to get out of your trip, you may want to consider one of the Noatak's tribs instead of the Noatak itself. In either case, take warm and windproof clothes and extra fuel for your food preparations. I would be sure to take a fishing rod as well!


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