The Source to Sea expedition is an unparalleled adventure that will take you through hundreds of miles of rugged and beautiful Alaskan terrain, from the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park all the way out to the Gulf of Alaska. For two weeks, you’ll follow water melting off the Nizina Glacier as it winds its way through the Nizina, Chitina and Copper Rivers, between mountains and sand dunes, through icebergs and waterfalls, out towards the ocean. You’ll raft among schools of salmon (and keep an eye out for the bears and eagles that prey on them), hike to get an up-close view of glaciers calving into the sea, and take a beautiful bush flight out over the peaks and cliffs that will overlook you on your journey. What follows is a sample itinerary for the 16 day trip. The demanding and sometimes unpredictable Alaskan wilderness, along with individual goals and capabilities, will shape your adventure. Each day, your guides will take into account weather, river conditions, logistics and group objectives in planning your customized adventure. DAY 1 (travel day) – We will meet you in Anchorage this morning before setting off towards McCarthy. The view from the highway is beautiful, winding through the Chugach Mountains, but we think you’ll enjoy the flight even more. About five hours outside of Anchorage, we’ll stop at the small town of Chitina on the edge of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. From there, you’ll board a small bush plane flown by the incredible pilots of Wrangell Mountain Air for a bird’s eye view of the park. The flight will take you to McCarthy, where your guides will meet you and discuss logistics and gear. You’ll stay in a local lodge for the night, your last regular bed for the next week! DAY 2 – It’s back to the airport this morning for your flight out to the edge of the Nizina Glacier. You’ll fly over mountains, river and tundra, and pass the Mile-High Cliffs before landing at the edge of the Nizina Glacier. Your first night’s camp will be prepared for you when you arrive, as well as a delicious lunch! In the afternoon, you and your guides will take the rafts out for a test run around the icebergs of the lake at the terminus of the glacier, taking breaks to explore the terrain a bit further on foot. DAY 3 – In the morning, you’ll pack up the rafts and paddle across the lake to where the current picks up and the Nizina River begins. Floating by the cliffs you saw from the plane, you’ll get up close and personal with some of the gorgeous waterfalls that pour off the cliffs on the east side of the river. A lunch stop here will give you the chance to explore the cliff walls, filled with intricate patterns formed over millions of years. Later in the afternoon, you and your guides will set up camp for the next two nights in the shadows of the cliffs. As you sit by the fire after dinner, you’ll make plans for the next day’s hike! DAY 4 – After packing in a hearty breakfast, you’ll say goodbye to the rafts for a day and take off on foot, eastward up the Chitistone Valley. After cutting through the woods for a half hour, the valley opens up, revealing routes along the Chitistone river up towering valley walls and by hidden waterfalls. You can hike as far as you like up the valley – it’s full of beautiful lunch spots! And you’ll have quite a spread for your well-earned dinner whenever you return to your cliffside camp for the evening. DAY 5 – It’s back onto the rafts for Day Five, floating down the Nizina as it widens into dozens of crisscrossing channels across its floodplain. The river will take you just south of Mt. Sourdough, and present (weather permitting) a beautiful view of Mt. Blackburn to the north. Towards the end of the day, the river will narrow back into a canyon and you’ll set up camp after navigating some whitewater and hairpin turns. DAYS 6-8 – On the far side of the canyon, the Nizina flows in the broader Chitina River, which weaves between the towering peaks of the Chugach Mountains to the south and the Wrangell Mountains to the north. The Chitina provides sandy campsites with panoramic vistas, picturesque side hikes and abundant wildlife. The river and its side streams are teeming with schools of salmon, making it a popular spot among local bears and eagles. On Day Eight, you’ll reach the town of Chitina, next to the confluence of the Chitina and Copper Rivers. A shuttle will be waiting to take you to a local hotel for the night and for a chance to shower and sleep in a real bed again. DAY 9 – After breakfast, you’ll get back into the rafts and start off down the Copper. As the river winds through Woods Canyon, it flows narrow, deep and strong – nearly ten times as strong as the Colorado River as it flows through the Grand Canyon. After departing the canyon, you and your guides will keep your eyes open for a good camping spot for the night, either by a stream or on a beach or bluff next to the Copper. DAYS 10-12 – Each of these days will take you deeper into the magnificent Chugach Mountains, cut through with massive hanging glaciers. Depending on water level and weather, you’ll spend between a half day and a full day on the water, leaving several opportunities for short hikes as you pass terrain you’d like to explore on foot. In the past, groups have explored Dewey Creek and ruins of an old railroad tunnel holding on beneath the alders, and have spotted bears, moose, and bald eagles perched high above the river’s edge. Where the Bremner River meets the Copper, you’ll see steep bluffs and tremendous sand dunes in sharp contrast to the glaciers coming up! DAY 13 – After rafting through Baird Canyon and the Abercrombie rapids, you’ll emerge into Miles Lake, a beautiful iceberg-filled stretch of the river framed between the Miles and Child’s Glaciers. The glaciers continually calve into the lake, creating thunderous explosions and giant waves. You’ll set up camp for the next two nights beside the lake, with a great view of the ice breaking off into the water. DAY 14 – You’ll leave the rafts tied up this day and go exploring the edge of Miles Lake to get a close-up view of the glacier, and possibly up on to the ice itself. Other day hikes from camp head up into the alpine, giving you an incredible view of the entire area. DAY 15 – It’s back in the rafts this morning and one last chance to view the Miles and Child’s Glaciers as you get back into the main current of the Copper. You’ll dodge icebergs breaking off of Child’s until the river widens past the face of the glacier, turning into a verdant delta. The delta is known for its wildlife, so keep a look out! The river spreads wider and wider, leaving us at a final night’s camp that appears to be in a different world from the first night’s canyon campsite. DAY 16 – The last day of the expedition begins with several hours of floating downstream towards Cordova. Near the edge of town (“edge” is relative in Alaska – you’ll still be about 20 miles away), you’ll bank the rafts and find a Copper Oar van awaiting your arrival. The drive into Cordova will give you a chance to prepare for seeing other human beings again. You’ll stop a hotel to shower and drop off luggage and then it’s out to a delicious Alaskan dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate the end of the journey. Cordova is a beautiful, secluded fishing town with no roads (only ferries and planes) connecting it to the rest of the state. We understand that your schedule may require a flight out to Anchorage shortly after dinner, but if you’d like to spend an extra night or more exploring the town, we would be happy to assist you in making those plans. Please contact us for more information on transportation and accommodation information. What’s Included? When you go on the Source to Sea expedition with us, you’ll get our most experienced and talented guides along with all rafting gear (dry-bags, rain gear, life jackets, rubber boots and tents) and delicious meals – since we’re travelling by raft, we can bring fantastic fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses to cook up top-of-the-line backcountry meals.
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