Anaktuvuk to Circle Lake: Gates of the Arctic NP

Over on Hedrik Morkel’s blog I posted a trip report of the Anaktuvuk-John-Wolverine Cr-Nahtuk-Pingaluk-Alatna trip with Andrew Skurka from last August (2010).

It’s about 120 miles and a week would be leisurely. The John is a great float as far as Wolverine Creek and Wolverine Creek is surprisingly good walking for south side of Brooks Range. Nahtuk would be good descent, likely Class IV (based on 25 year old memory of it). Pingaluk looks like Class III+ in a couple canyons that Andy didn’t want to run. We went in late/mid August and it was nice. No bugs, fall colors, enough water.

You’d have to charter out of Circle Lake or Kutuk Lake (both unnamed on maps, but pretty easy to spot – Circle Lake is a circle on the S-west side of the Alatna on the 1:250,000 scale Survey Pass quad and Kutuk is the oblong lake just opposite Arrigetch Creek on N-east side of Alatna), but you’re close to Arrigetch, so worth checking that out. You can fly to Anaktuvuk on a number of different daily carriers for < $150, I think.

Floating out to Allakaket would be painful.

This is a very good intermediate trip, much simpler and straight froward than the “Arctic Circle”.

There are words and text at Hiking in Finland ( and more pictures at Roaming Dials (

My girlfriend and I are looking at doing this trip this August, but the biggest question we have is whether to do this as a pair of timid class-III boaters (having regular class III experience in frontcountry but, 8 months out, being nervous about committing to it in wilderness). I’ve read the two posts Roman links to about doing this in 8/2011, and Caroline and Pat’s 8/2012 trip with much higher water,

What I’ve got from these is that (presumably depending on the rain), one could do this trip with only class II water, portaging a couple spots on the John and walking down the Nahtuk and Pingaluk until they become class II. We’d probably end up being braver than that, but I’m trying to figure out the most conservative option.




We walked up the Pingaluk in empty water conditions in August and it looks super.

If I had the time I’d put in as high as possible on the Pingaluk. I was a timid Class III boater with Peggy (A timid Class II boater). The Nahtuk had the worst brush I have seen in the Brooks Range and a deep and scary canyon, too.

The John-Wolverine-Pingaluk looks like the best of the creeks we have walked or run on the NE side of the Alatna.