— Source to Sea – Detailed Itinerary —
The Ultimate Alaska River Rafting Trip and Alaska Adventure Tour
The following is a sample itinerary for this trip. Due to individual abilities and goals, as well as the demanding environment of Alaska, all of our trips are customized as they unfold. The guide will constantly make decisions based on weather, logistics, and group dynamics to maximize each day’s experience. There can be quite a bit of variation, but we always strive to make every trip your best ever.
Our Source to the Sea adventure tour is fourteen days long and includes hiking, rafting, exploring glaciers and waterfalls, flightseeing, and wildlife viewing in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We spend nights camped along the river. The trip ends near the charming coastal town of Cordova. From there, you’ll fly back to Anchorage or we can help with alternative arrangements to continue your Alaska trip.
DAY 0 – Today you’ll meet your guide in McCarthy for Orientation and Gear Shakedown. Our professional guides have been busy making preparations for your trip and are excited to meet you! You are in good hands as they review your itinerary, go over the menu, make sure that you are properly outfitted for the trip, and distribute/fit any equipment you need. After making sure you are totally prepared for the adventure ahead, your guide will make sure to get you to your lodging that night and coordinate plans for tomorrow’s pick-up.
DAY 1 – Early this morning we will board a bush plane for our flight out to the toe of the Nizina Glacier. This is a spectacular landscape of icebergs, high mountain peaks, and the sounds of the river heading off down valley. You will spend today exploring this marvelous area on foot and camp tonight next to the berg-filled lake. Your guides will prepare for you the first of many delicious meals this evening.
DAY 2 – Early in the morning we head across Nizina Lake and begin the river trip. It is a fascinating feeling to row across still water and then reach the point where the water spills over the lake’s lip shore on begins its trip to the sea. The river moves swiftly in the upper reaches. We stop for a hike today a spectacular waterfall pouring from one of the riverside cliffs. We camp along the Nizina this night, below the mile-high cliffs.
DAY 3 – Today we explore by foot the Chitistone area, where glaciers have scoured deep and easy valleys that are ringed by jagged mountain ridges. The views are forever and the hiking a pleasure. The hiking and sights on this day are uniquely Alaska: plunging waterfalls, soft tundra underfoot, bear, wolf, and moose tracks, and more are all encountered.
DAY 4 – On this day we reach and camp in the Nizina Canyon, after negotiating tricky and tight hairpin turn whitewater. We camp where the Nizina spills into the Chitina river, and drift to sleep with fresh memories of the treasures of the Nizina River. This and every night the light lasts until early in the morning and quickly returns to announce another great day on this two week Alaska adventure tour.
DAYS 5-7 – The topography changes significantly as we merge with and float the Chitina, a broad, braided river. On the Chitina when skies are clear you can see distant peaks that reach over three miles into the sky. The Chugach mountains form the southern boundary and the Wrangells form the north as the Chitina winds its way west. The Chitina is blessed with fantastic sandy campsites that allow classic Alaska panoramas.
We continue down the Chitina, stopping along the way for great side hikes, peering into clear side streams for salmon, and enjoying the river slipping by our campsite in the evening. Distant peaks of the Wrangell mountains fill the sky. On the afternoon of day seven, we reach the Copper River and the town of Chitina. He we are shuttled to a local hotel for a night of showers, beds, and other creature comforts.
DAY 8 – Late in the morning we shove off and head down the Copper. We quickly enter Woods Canyon, where the river narrows and runs swift and deep. The river here flows nearly ten times as strong as the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. Simply put, the Copper River is big. After exiting the canyon we camp along shore and marvel in the rich green Copper River corridor.
DAYS 9-11 – On these days we float further and further down this grand river, as it grows in size and spectacle with each mile. Glaciers begin to appear around each corner. Tributary rivers serve as idyllic lunch and camp stops. The river flows calm and wide and whispers down braid channels. Brisk afternoon winds are likely on these days. Natural features such as Bremner Dunes and Whiting Falls leave us impressed with the power and uniqueness of Alaska. Typically, bear, eagle, and salmon are spotted on this stretch, as well as a wayward seal in search of a far upriver salmon dinner. Each night we camp along the Copper and are blessed with unreal views of skyscraping mountains, hanging glaciers, and more.
DAY 12 – On this day we typically raft through Baird Canyon and Abercrombie rapids, a place of whitewater, wildlife, and wonder. We emerge from Abercrombie and enter broad and beautiful Miles Lake, a calm stretch of the river framed by the huge Mile and Child’s Glaciers. The lake is spangled with icebergs that have calved from two-mile-wide Miles Glacier. We camp near the glacier and witness time and again the power of natural Alaska, as giant ice chunks break crash into the river. Our night of this unmatched adventure is filled with thunderous explosions of calving icebergs and quiet moments of reflection on Miles Lake.
DAY 13 – If the weather and condition cooperate, we have this day as a layover to hike and explore the area around Miles Lake and Miles Glacier. There are some great hiking opportunities from our camp that can take us ambling toward the calving edge of the glacier, hiking along the moraine and even on to the ice itself, or up into the alpine to get sweeping views of this magnificent landscape. We’ll return to a cozy camp and a hot meal of course!
DAY 14 – This morning we row across Miles Lake and sachet our way around the icebergs large and small that pepper this stretch of the river. We’ll pass under the Million Dollar Bridge, originally built for the Copper River and Northwestern Railway that ran all the way to McCarthy-Kennecott, where our journey began. We then raft past the 300ft towering face of the Child’s Glacier and into the vast Copper River Delta. This is a wildlife-rich area and we keep our eyes peeled for bears, eagles, seals, and many other animals. We’ll camp this evening along the western edge of the delta.
DAY 15 – We pack up camp for the last time this morning and spend our final half a day floating through the delta. After a couple of hours, we reach our take-out point, unpack the rafts and board the van for the half-hour drive to Cordova. We arrive in Cordova this afternoon, enjoy a tasty Alaska dinner at a local eatery, and toast to a great Alaska Adventure completed. If you need to continue on as quickly as possible you can fly back to Anchorage this evening, although we recommending spending at least one night in this charming town.
“A fantastic experience — wild Alaska at its best!”
Click on the markers below to view important points along your trip. Check out that zoom feature!