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Thread: Noatak River 2009

  1. #1

    Default Noatak River 2009

    Made the decision to float the Noatak River with a Pro Pioneer Summer of 2009. Looking for some advice, resources and would like to anyone that has done this float.

    A rough idea of what I want to do.

    Fly out of Bettles to head of Noatak.
    Float to the sea, boat pickup to Kotzebue and Fly out.

    What I would like to do also.

    Get a wolf or two.
    Get a caribou, if weather and distance allows keeping meat in good condition.

    With the above being said, this is my first real resource. Looking for any books covering this trip, best dates advice, how long will it take, better fly out locations, what fishing is like, reputable taxi service from Bettles or if there is a better location to fly from. What is the water like, Class I, II, etc. sweepers, log jams?

    Know it is a lot, however, I know there is a lot of knowledge that reads this forum, so advice on where to start would be helpful.

    PM me is you like

  2. #2
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default lots of reading

    Right on this forum
    just put Noatak in the search engine on this site.
    I just looked it up to see what we have posted here in the past few years, and there is alot. also contact Buck. here is his link to his trip and video of the Noatak, and also his walk/float accross the state.
    http://www.bucktrack.com/Alaska_Broo..._Traverse.html
    also on this site is the river trips from guys and gals that floated lots of rivers back in the 70's. Although dated, most rivers will be very much the same, other than some of the land designation, and ownership. land ownership does not affect your river travel, but it does effect your camping and hiking, hunting if you happen on a area that is under native Alaskan Control.
    all in all Buck will have a good grip on the Noatak,, just contact him..
    Also new book out on Alaska rivers. Contact Mike Strahan for more information on how to get a copy of that.
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

  3. #3
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default buy the video here

    this will be a good visual of the area, and a good 90 minutes of real Alaska.
    just buy the video here
    http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/sto...5cf35f893012e8
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

  4. #4
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Default A few thoughts

    Hi moosedrool,

    Here are a few things off the top of my head:

    The whole Noatak from the Headwaters to Kotzebue is a very long trip. Someone who floated the river at the same time I did said it was over 450 river miles as recorded by their GPS. I think I did it in about 3 weeks.

    There are no trees on the upper Noatak, and it wasn't a bad river for sweepers on the lower Noatak where there were trees. Overall it was a fairly easy river although it would be easy to flip a boat in spots if you weren't careful. The Alaska Paddling Guide rates it WW I with some WW II. I remember thinking people could get into trouble in an open canoe if they didn't have experience. I used a Pro Pioneer with oar saddles and that setup worked great and I had no problems.

    Wind was a problem on some days. I had enough time so I took at least one wind day and one rain/high water day off. Overall I really enjoyed the Noatak.

    When you plan your flyout price flying out of Kotzebue and flying out of Bettles because Kotzebue may actually be cheaper at times. I flew out of Bettles with Brooks Range Aviation. They were very professional and helpful.

    I second the recommendation of using the search function on this site for lots more Noatak ideas.

    Study the regs carefully, including the one on the Noatak Controlled Use Area to make sure you know what's legal.

  5. #5
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default noatak...

    I have floated two of the lower Noatak tribs about 75 miles north of Kotz. Not floated the Noatak itself except for only a few miles going to my pick up spots. But from what I have seen, it is a big river (100 yards wide) and floating it could have the potential of being mundane (to me at least). I heard that the canyon section is interesting. Lots of archaelogical interest in the area. 10,000 years worth I am told. It is a long river to float. I have heard that it is about a three week float. Some class II (dependent on water conditions) stuff in some upper sections from what I recall reading, but mostly an easy flowing river. For fishing, I can only say that in the lower reaches there is good fishing for dollies and grayling. In the tribs anyway. Big dollies up that way. I would expect you would find some pike in the main river. Some chums up there in August. Possibly some sheefish but you would have to check into that. I caught lots in Kotzebue and suspect they get up into the river as well. Where the tribs enter the Noatak would be where I would concentrate my fishing efforts. You will find tons of info on Google. Below is a link for the bush flight. Reputable service from what I am told. I will be using these folks for my Kobuk River float.

    http://www.bettleslodge.com/airservice/
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  6. #6
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Noatak...

    I am sure you saw this here on the forum, but just in case, here is a link. It is under "Areas" on the home page. Lots of info on the Noatak.

    http://outdoorsdirectory.com/boating/arl/noatak.htm
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  7. #7

    Default Thanks for the response

    Thanks for the response, great advice and appreciate the help. Buck, on your 700 and 1000 mile videos which would show the most of the Noatak? Dan and alaskacanoe, thanks for the links. I may pm you guys in the future if I come up with some questions. Thanks

  8. #8

    Default noatak = no joke

    I have floated the Noatak twice from top to bottom. It took 22 days, including 3 no paddle days.
    A few things to consider:
    If your hope is to hunt, I would suggest you shorten the length of river you hope to float. Or plan not to hunt for the first 2 weeks to avoid meat loss.
    Also caribou aren't present, in large numbers, lower on the river till later in the fall. So plan for adverse weather.
    Wolves are hit and miss. One year I had a pup hanging around camp for two days, howling all the time, and never did see adults. Other times I've bumped several from the beach at close quarters.
    The stretch of river from Noatak village to the 'sea' is a sloooooow... Consider pulling out at the village and flying or towing from there.
    Jams and sweepers shouldn't be an issue later in the year. The river is less forgiving earlier in the summer when the water is really moving and the banks are messed up from break-up.
    Most of the river is not terribly dangerous for a knowledgable paddler, it is mainly wide open or class I, but there are a few canyons and tight spots that deserve extra attention. The kind that make you appreciate how powerfull water is...
    Buck knows what he's talking about, the wind can add days to paddling. especially in the open areas days between mtn ranges.
    I'd be glad to try and answer any other questions you have.
    cheers

  9. #9
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by moosedrool View Post
    Thanks for the response, great advice and appreciate the help. Buck, on your 700 and 1000 mile videos which would show the most of the Noatak?
    The 700 Miles trip took place in the eastern Brooks Range so it doesn't show the Noatak.

    The Noatak part of the 1,000 Mile DVD comprises about a half hour of the DVD or so. It has scenes from the headwaters to the Chukchi Sea and of course shows the water, weather and the landscape, and the fish and wildlife I encountered along they way.

  10. #10

    Default Thanks to all

    I appreciate all the information from eneryone. I will be contacting some of you again. I wanted to thank Buck for the video. Well done and some amazing footage a must watch for anyone that appreciates Alaska and all that it offers. I would reccomend it to anyone. Once again thanks Buck. One question though how many extra miles do you think you walked going back and picking up the camera? Great job once again, you inspired a couple more trips that I have been thinking about and turned them to the planning stages. Just need to figure out more vacation time or figure out the independantly wealthy plan.

  11. #11
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default share the experience

    Just like Buck, It would be nice if you can share your wilderness experience with all of us when you return from your adventure.
    Its so nice to see the good folks on the forums helping and working with those that share similar interests.
    Keep posting as you come up with new ideas and make your plans for your 2009 trip.
    It is truly of interest to many, as you can see by the numbers of people that view the posts. Many folks look and read the posts that never post themselves.
    We encourage any of you that are viewing the different forums to contribute...
    Just giving an attaboy..
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

  12. #12
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by moosedrool View Post
    One question though how many extra miles do you think you walked going back and picking up the camera?
    Thanks moosedrool. I get asked that question often. Setting up the shots took some time and added some miles, of course. Probably the toughest part was having to come back to pick up the camera at a couple of river crossings! Editing was the biggest job, though, trying to take over 10 hours of video and deciding what footage would best tell the story and be most interesting.

    I agree with Alaskacanoe, I'd like to read about your upcoming adventures, and of course everyone else's too.

    Buck

  13. #13
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Camping on the Noatak

    Lots of great stuff here, as usual.

    I might mention that you will want to bring a low-profile mountaineering tent on this trip. It can get quite windy at times and you want a shelter that holds up to the worst nature can dish out. Much of the upper river is not treed, however there are some large willow patches you can use for a windbreak. Of course in the lower river you have the trees for shelter in many areas.

    Fishing is pretty good for grayling and char, and you will probably see some chum salmon as well. We never did that well fishing while we were floating for some reason, but if you pick your spot (stream confluences are a usually best,) it can be quite good.

    It can be hit or miss for caribou; the herds migrate south out of the Brooks Range and sometimes the migration stalls out in the foothills south of the Brooks. It's all about timing, and really unpredictable. On a long trip like yours, you might consider holding off shooting one until you get below Sapun Creek, otherwise you could run into a spoilage problem. Just as well though, there are several drainages coming in from the north side that are used by caribou as migration corridors.

    Have a great trip!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
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  14. #14
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Tents and rock bags...

    "I might mention that you will want to bring a low-profile mountaineering tent on this trip"

    Good point Michael! You may also want a freestanding model. I could not imagine anything else on our float trips up in NW Alaska. I got a Black Diamond Guiding Light and it is incredible. It has a low profile and is extremely wind resistant. Fully waterproof once you seam seal it. It comes with the seam sealer. Takes like 20 minutes. We were in a storm on the Goodnews in SW this past Sept and this tent did not let one drop in all night. I was impressed. I also like the pitter patter of the rain on the drum tight tent. It is single wall too so no rain fly to put on and off. I hate listening to a rain fly flapping in the wind all night. I like to listen for visitors if you know what I mean. It weighs like 5 lbs (total) and packs to near nothing. Literally a two liter drink bottle. Super lightweight, easy to put up, and built like a brick sh^t house. What more could one ask for?

    We use rock bags instead of stakes. So much easier and works great. I would not float a river without one at this point. The ones we use are just mesh bags from Campmor. Not the cheap nylon type, these are very durable. Look brand new after two float trips worth of filling with rocks every night. They come in about 4 sizes. We use the 12" X 20" (or there abouts) for our tents. Just fill with rocks at the campsite (you will have no short supply of rocks), then attach a basic over hand knot to the tent stake loops on the tent. The drawstring (handle) of the mesh bags is about 5" long when pulled tight. That is what we tie to the tent. Pull it out taught and drop it. Tent is up. Taking down the tent, just empty the bags and throw them in with the tent. It is a perfect system when camping on gravel river bars. Below is a link. The larger 24x32" bag is great for organizing smaller gear/waterproof bags and such in our Ally pack canoes. I keep my fly rods/tubes and all fishing gear in the duffle size model. We have found a lot of small waterproof bags organized in a larger mesh bag is much easier and more practical than having large waterproof bags. Aside from easier weight distribution in the canoes, we find it much easier to find particular items when 4-5 small waterproof bags are in the large mesh bag. I got so tired of digging for this..digging for that. This system took care of that problem forever.

    http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...0226&langId=-1

    http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...0226&langId=-1

    http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/st...Id=40000000226
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  15. #15
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default River trips

    This thread on the Noatak has brought forward some great ideas for any river trip in Alaska.
    the rock bag system of staking a tent is fantastic.
    Some trips I have been on sport winds over 80 mph, and have destroyed a few tents. Low profile is no fun for us older guys to try and get dressed in, or get trapped in for several days, but Low profile is smart if you want to keep from blowing away in super windy conditions.
    paying attention to the normal wind patterns of the area you are in is good advice also.
    many places seem to have stronger winds at certain times of the day, so move when the wind lays down if its in your face.
    One area that I have floated for years will almost always blow from about 2 pm to 6 pm up river during the month of Sept.. I have finally learned to wait it out and float for a couple of hours in the later evening. The hunting gets better at this time anyway, just before dark, and I float until I find a sutible Island to park on..
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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