Floating the Kobuk

So, finally, here are all the rest of the pictures from our float trip. Sorry it has taken so long to get these on here.
This was the most amazing trip ever! For anyone interested, it should be put in your top five list for lifetime trips. These pictures show the scenery and terrain around us and our basic day to day life for eighteen days on the river.
This is the plane we flew in on from Bettles to Lake Mini. In Bettles we found that our gear was 300 lbs. over our plane's weight limit, so we had to charter a bigger plane ($$$) to get everything to the lake. Oops!

This is the plane that Didier and Joe flew in on.

There goes the plane....and we are left hundreds of miles from any road or town, in silence, in the middle of the wilderness, for eighteen days!!!

The fall colors were at their peak when we first arrived. By the end of all these pictures you can tell that all the color is over and winter is approaching quickly.

The next couple of mornings on the lake were cool and foggy.

The first day of the trip we decided we should hang out around the lake getting gear situated and playing around in the boats. So, Andrew and I decided to bush whack our way to the top of the mountain (in the picture above) across the lake from us. Joe and Didier spent the day fishing.

Taken while rowing across the lake.

Cool little ferns with fall colored blueberry bushes behind them.

Golden birch and aspen trees.

The views were incredible!

It was hot the first few days with temps in the 70s.

More red blueberry bushes.

That is Beaver Creek, the creek that we will float the next day to the Kobuk River.

All fog again the next morning. This is Didier and Joe in Joe's 12 ft. zodiac boat. They have Didier's 5 horse motor on the back of it.

At the mouth of Beaver Creek is where we did a little fishing for pikes.

The beginning of the float down Beaver Creek.

Not too far down we saw a bull moose standing like a statue as we floated by. He's brave because it was moose season at the time.

The fog is burning off now.

And it is turning into another beautiful day. We were so blessed with great weather the entire trip. Not a single drop of rain the whole time.

Not far from the moose we saw the first grizzly as well! He was right here on this bank, but he ran away so quickly we couldn't get a picture.

Didier fished almost all day for the first half of the trip.

The zodiac sat deeper in the water than the raft Andrew and I were in, so small ripples and rocks like this were a problem for Didier and Joe. They bottomed out a few times and had to get out of the boat and walk it through the shallow waters.

Beautiful mountain scenery the whole trip.

Every part of the riverbank and every island we stopped at had bear tracks on it.

And dead salmon.

We camped mostly on gravel and sand beaches. A few people are curious about the kind of food we brought with us. We took 80 lbs. of food which was planned for about 20 days. We took 4 lbs. of butter, 10 lbs. of cheese, dehydrated hash browns which we fixed up with bacon bits, cheese, and peppers and onions (that were also dehydrated), pancake mix, bagels (fixed with cream cheese), lots of pasta with different sauce mixes (alfredo, marinara, pesto), rice (which we would use curry powder or a powdered chicken chicken broth with it), refried beans that we ate with buttered tortillas that we melted cheese on (a favorite for sure), a few packages of pre-cooked chicken, and lots of snack foods for lunches, like peanut butter and honey, pretzels, dried mango and cranberries, fig newtons, goldfish crackers, mixed nuts, cajun trail mix, chocolate trail mix, nilla wafers, animal crackers...lots of variety!

Huge sundog.

This is the raft (it is Didier's raft) that Andrew and I floated the river in. We used it for a lot of pictures because of its bright yellow color.

So many awesome sunsets and sunrises.

I love how the spruce trees lean over the river.

We saw lots of eagles...balds, immatures, and goldens.

This is the second (and last) grizzly we saw. He was on the riverbank and was very curious about Andrew and I as we floated by, but as soon as he saw the second boat it was too much for him. He ran off immediately.

We camped with a couple of other guys one night that had flown in just for fishing. At this point we were starting to get into the sheefishing.

Crystal clear water and not very deep in the upper sections.

This is the island where we camped for a couple of days to do the best sheefishin' ever!

Lots of bear and wolf tracks around here.

And a caribou jaw bone.

We walked all over the island checking things out when we weren't fishing or eating fish.

The biggest bear explosion ever!

Huge wolf tracks! This is Andrew's hand in the photo for size, but look at your own hand and imagine wolf tracks this big.

Our camp...Didier brought along a portable electric bear fence that we set up every night. He finally worked up the nerve to test it on day 10 and it did nothing. Apparently we didn't have it wired correctly! After we got it wired correctly, the guys tested it, and the shock was only as bad as a doorhandle shock!!! lol! But, we all still slept soundly.

Floating downstream again.

We are starting to see native fish camps now.

We are also getting into the tundra...caribou country.

Fish net in the water.

We saw two bull moose swim across the river one day. That was very cool!

This is Kobuk, the first of four native villages that we visited. We stopped there for a few food supplies, to ask about caribou sightings, and to find out about fuel in villages downriver.

The fish drying tents at the next village, Shungnak.

Two friendly native girls from Shungnak.

Now, we're in tow for the rest of the trip because the river moves so slow. They towed us between 4-7mph.


We saw a lot of fresh and old caribou racks on the riverbanks.

Spotting the first group of caribou!

This is at Onion Portage, one of the most used caribou crossings. Also an archeological site. The park rangers have a very nice cabin here.

Caribou tracks

We hung out here for a while scouting and waiting, but got word that they were downstream and upstream, but not here.

Up on the hill for sunset at Onion Portage with great 360 views.

Almost a full moon.

Back on the river!

More caribou racks.

These are the old racks and skulls strung out behind a cabin that we went to to take pictures of when the caribou started appearing in the background.

Stuck in the ground with vegetation grown up around it.

Frosted baby bear tracks.

That white thing in the picture is a tee-pee.

We are near the sand dunes at this point. It is towards the end of the trip and ice is starting to form on the river edges at night.

Everything is heavily frosted every morning. The creek that leads to the sand dunes is almost completely frozen over. The temps have been getting into the teens at night. One morning we woke up and it was 13 degrees inside of our tent. Luckly we had fallen asleep with a full thermos of coffee that we were going to drink the night before while shooting the northern lights, but since that didn't happen, we drank the still hot coffee in our sleeping bags!

Across the river, from a bluff you can see the Kobuk Sand Dunes. We decided not to spend time getting there, so we would have more time chasing caribou.


At one of our last camps we got caught in a crazy sand storm. This was definitely the worst weather we saw on the trip. It started in the middle of the night. Sand was pouring through the mesh of our tent walls and raining down on our faces and sleeping bags. No one got much sleep that night because of all the noise from the rain flys and tarps flapping in the wind. When we finally woke up for the day, our sleeping bags and everything else in the tent was completely covered in a lay of sand. And the storm was still going. We ate sandy breakfasts and packed up as quickly as we could to escape the sand, but only to approach a white-capped river.

The storm finally calmed and the river was calm again that evening. This where we camped our last few nights. It was across the river from the Kiana Lodge.

Lorry Schuerch owns the Kiana Lodge and showed us incredible hospitality our last few nights on the river even though the lodge was already closed for the season.

Caribou racks line the driveway (for his four-wheeler becasue there is no road access) to the lodge.

A HUGE moose rack under a spruce tree in the yard.

The lodge has incredible views overlooking the river, the valley, and the surrounding mountains. He invited us to hang out at the lodge to watch for incoming caribou and to hang out at night for taking northern light photos.

From the small air strip behind the lodge you can see the village Kiana in the distance.

Walking the airstrip.

A beautiful fox that lives nearby.

I was the only one who got to see him at this moment and he was being so precious. He did not mind me being there at all and after a few minutes he curled up and bedded again (which is how I found him).

Evening alpen glow

A church pew overlooks the valley and the river.

On September 28th, we deflated the boats and moved all our stuff to the airport in Kiana on our last morning. Ice lined the river banks and thin sheets of ice floated downriver. Some locals told it could be three to five days before the river would be completely frozen over. Talk about timing. And the caribou have yet to cross at least in this area. They used to cross in mid-August.