DIY Alaska Caribou Hunt and Float
Along with our drop camp hunts we offer these float trip hunts.
Experience the wilderness and adventure of a Charley River float trip while hunting caribou from the growing Fortymile caribou herd. We offer an affordable and convenient way to hunt along the Charley River. 3 1/2 hours driving from Fairbanks and a 50 minute bush plane flight places you and your hunting companions at the beginning of an exciting and enjoyable hunt.
Just Northwest of Tok, in Yukon - Charley Rivers National Preserve; the Charley River is classified as a class II-III. Many types of wildlife can been seen along the river including peregrine falcons, sheep, caribou, moose, bears, and wolves. The river passes right through prime country for harvesting from the Fortymile caribou herd.
The float trip is from the headwaters of the Charley River to Circle City on the Yukon River. From the drop-off location at the headwaters of the Charley River, to Circle City on the Yukon, is about 170 miles. One should plan on 9-13 days. It can be done in less time but that's a comfortable pace and allows for extra time to hunt.
Hunters can plan on driving a vehicle to Circle City and staging the vehicle there. Circle City is a 4 hour drive from Fairbanks on the Steese Highway. The bush plane will pick you up in Circle City and take you to the headwaters of the Charley River. Each flight is limited to 650 lbs. The 650 lb limit includes people plus gear. We work with Larry Bartlett at Pristine Ventures for boat rental. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have about this adventure.
The Charley River is cold, clear, intermediate free-flowing, by June, there is usually adequate flow to accommodate small boats through August. Sometimes it may be necessary to drag or portage a raft or kayak across shallower spots if water is running low. From its headwaters at around 4,000 ft, the Charley River flows at an average gradient of 31 feet per mile, before merging with the Yukon at about 700 feet.
The upper two-thirds of the river can be challenging and technical during high water. Typically the upper 36 miles is characterized by low water and frequent boulder gardens. When water levels are lower, maneuvering becomes a constant necessity, and some rapids require scouting to determine the best channel.
Much of the Charley River is rated class II (intermediate) difficulty, with limited areas rated as class III (more difficult). At times of high water on the upper Charley, class IV rapids may be present. It is advised to exercise extra caution during high water conditions. From the confluence with the Yukon, expect 65 miles of Class I to Circle, AK.
Inflatable rafts or canoes are recommended due to the difficulty maneuvering through boulder laden areas and because they are easily transported. Kayaks, open canoes, or other vessels are not recommended.
From the moment you unload from the plane you will be free to hunt and float at your own pace. The 170-mile route usually takes 10-12 days. Watch your speed to ensure that you aren’t moving too quickly through this area. Caribou hunting will be sporadic, Fortymile caribou migrate in scattered numbers from their summer ranges around the Upper Fortymile, Salcha and Charley river drainages. This float trip is ideal for spending adequate time hunting multiple campsites. Float times will vary according to current water levels, however expect about 50-60 hours on the water to completion, or about 7-10 on the Charley and a 10 hour float on the Yukon to Circle City.
Large bulls are encountered in the upper portion of this float roughly 15 miles downstream from the put-in. Remember to scan hillsides and ridgelines to locate caribou that are using these upper vantages for insect relief. Land travel is easier at these higher elevations as there is more open ground with less bush. Caribou movements from Mt. Sorenson southwest across the Charley River are usually predictable. The caribou often emerge from the peaks of Sorenson moving across the Charley River between Essie and Highland Creeks. Expect to find game trails coming out of the spruce thickets, ambush spot, and stalks are effective. Establish your camp where you see movement, hunting the areas between the river and alpine hillsides. In the drainages around Highland Creek continuing to the Yukon, black bears can be found.
This river is a common destination, so expect human encounters in small groups from Gelvin’s strip downstream. In the lower 20 miles riverboat traffic is possible, but usually water levels prevent access to the middle and upper reaches by motorboat. Though human encounters are expected in this area, usually less than 2-3 groups are spotted along journey. Camping on gravel bars is ideal, and willow and other deadfall is plentiful along the entire trip.