Lots of folks are curious what to expect on one of our multi-day rafting trips. Well, the short answer is: Expect to have your face melted by the stunning beauty and grand-scale remoteness you’ll experience on your trip. But from a more practical standpoint, here are some other things to expect:
Your guides will prepare breakfast, lunch, appetizers, and dinner during your trip. Breakfasts tend to be hot (although you may have 1-2 cold breakfasts on your trip), and lunches tend to be deli-style, served off the boats on a gravel riverbar. Appetizers will be made available upon getting into camp, and can be enjoyed while your guides prepare dinner. Dinner is often served buffet-style, and be prepared to balance your plate on your lap while sitting in a camp chair around a campfire. While our menus vary, expect to enjoy balanced home-cooked dinners, and always save room for dessert. We also bring a limited amount of beer and wine (based on the preferences you specify) for evening enjoyment, as well as coffee, tea, cocoa and lemonade, juice or soda. Each boat will carry a bag of snacks when hunger strikes mid-day, so don’t feel the need to pack extra snacks. We’re prepared to accommodate most dietary restrictions, as long as we know in advance, so feel free to discuss any concerns with us.
During your trip, you will be sleeping in tents. Your guides are happy to assist you with setting them up (especially the first night, as it can be confusing). We do not provide cots, but will provide a thick sleeping pad to cushion and insulate yourself from the ground. We do not provide sleeping bags but have them available to rent if you prefer not to bring your own. Our rental bags are large, comfortable and cozy warm! Your guides will assist you with staking and guying out your tent as to withstand any wind/rain, and large vestibules over the doors are a great place to store gear overnight. If traveling with a companion, we often will pair you two up as tent-mates, but can accommodate single-occupancy requests, as long as we know in advance.
When on any expedition, it’s safe to expect that you will not maintain the same level of cleanliness that you do at home. On the river, it’s not uncommon to get muddy river water on your clothes or skin, or dirt and sand among your belongings. Although we do not have showers, bringing along a small bottle of biodegradable soap and a washcloth can be a great way to wash off some of this grime while in camp. Your guides will be happy to heat up some water for you on a casual evening so you can take a “sponge” bath part way through the trip. Hearty adventurers may attempt a “Polar Bear Plunge” in the river or a side-stream to rinse off. Hand soap and hand sanitizer are provided, and liberal use of one or both is required prior to handling food and after using the toilet.
In camp, a “groover” system is used for solid waste, consisting of a toilet seat on a tripod stool (and typically an amazing view!). Regarding liquid waste, you will be asked to pee on the ground or the river, in areas a short distance away from our camp. During the day, the groover is packed away on the boats, so the guides will carry a “poop kit” for mid-day emergencies.
The schedule varies from day to day, depending on the distance to the next camp, weather conditions, or side-hike options. Some trips contain a “layover day,” where we do not change camps, and enjoy a day-hike instead of traveling in the rafts. On an average river day, expect to wake up around 7 or 7:30 and enjoy coffee and hot drinks while your guide cooks breakfast. After breakfast, you’ll pack up your tent, break camp, and help the guides load up the boats, commonly getting on the river between 9 and 10am. You’ll spend the morning floating down the river, occasionally stopping to take interesting side-hikes. Lunch is served riverside, and typically allows for some time to explore the gravel bars and look for animal tracks. Back in the boats for the afternoon, you can expect to be on the river until any time between 3 and 5pm, when we’ll pull ashore and set up camp. In camp you can relax, wash up, take side hikes, and have happy hour before we enjoy a hearty dinner and dessert around the campfire. For any down-time, we bring a library of books on local natural and human history that also includes a deck of cards, and the guides always have other “river games” up their sleeves. Some guides also play guitar and bring the company owned one along on the trip - if you’d like them to bring it for you to play just let us know!
One of the fun and challenging aspects of rafting in Alaska is the wide variety of weather you can expect to encounter on your trip. You can expect periods of rain (heavy at times), but more often a light drizzle (the Copper River tends to be rainier than the more interior sections - that moisture is why it’s so stunningly beautiful with waterfalls and glaciers!). The river corridors tend to be windy, so it’s important to dress for that too. Other times, the sun is shining, and you’re in a t-shirt constantly re-applying sunscreen. The best thing to do is pack enough clothing to keep you warm and dry (good rainwear is a must!) and be ready for the weather to change. Remember - if you don’t like the weather in Alaska now, just wait a few minutes.
When it comes down to it, it’s just plain fun to be out exploring the Alaska wilderness by river. Whether it’s enjoying music around the campfire, snapping photos of a grizzly bear on shore, or falling asleep to the sounds of the river, your multi-day rafting trip with Copper Oar should leave you with fun memories to last a lifetime. That’s what to expect.