Thursday, June 3, 2010

Canoeing in Alaska's Iniakuk

Rating ****
The Iniakuk is a river almost totally isolated from the rest of the world. The river was only previously run by two people because of the remoteness and the difficulty of maneuvering downstream. Chris White spent 14 summers in a row guiding people down rivers in the Alaskan wilderness and one summer noticed the Iniakuk. A quick scout of the river yielded the discovery of a sheer walled canyon 12ft wide that the river disappeared into. Research into government records gave Chris more information about the valley and talked about waterfalls, and an inaccessible canyon. Chris was not halted by this information. The next problem he had to deal with was access, helicopters are not allowed to fly in the area so the nearest place he could land with a floatplane was a lake a three-mile walk through the bush away. He decided to attempt to run the river anyways successfully completed the first descent in 1996, the next summer he took a single client. Eugene Buchanan and a newlywed couple from Pennsylvania were to be the next ones to attempt the descent guided by Chris. The Iniakuk is located in to most bear rich valley of the Brooks. On one morning of the 7 day trip the group was startled by an encounter with a mother bear and her two year old cub, it could have ended badly but luckily the mother bear decided it was better to not have a confrontation and ran away. Over the rest of the trip the group traveled through canyons and sections of Class V river and made their way to the Alatna where they were to be picked up.

Minus the bugs and the bears I think it would be a great opportunity to experience something so few people have had the chance to see. On the map they had the only thing that was named was the river which shows just how remote an area it really is. It would take a lot of courage to go back into an area after being attacked by bears multiple times, but Chris didn't let it get the better of him. He even aimed to attempt another first descent the summer after this trip which would be his sixth.

Eugene Buchanan, "Canoeing in Alaska's Iniakuk", Paddler, March/April 1999, Print.

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