Hanson and I, floated a portion of the Duke River as part of our “pre-moon” in the Yukon in late July. About 5 miles north of Burwash Landing the highway crosses the river, on the north side of the bridge is a gravel road. We drove about 3 miles up the road and started hiking from there, this is an access point for the Donjek Loop trail. Not knowing the river we hiked next to it, which was fairly easy in soft moss and same growth forest.
We hiked in about 8 or 9 miles and made a camp, had a caribou and wolf walk through camp (actually chase would be a better description), plenty of bear sign as well.
The following day we floated out as we had a ferry to catch in Haines. For the rough 8.5 miles we floated there were three different river types, we started with a consistent swift river. If you try this you should be completely comfortable in class II+ water and should be fine in class III. Debris along the edge had indicated that the water had recently been about a foot higher than when we ran it. This short section could easily be done in a day.
The river is fairly consistent back to the vehicle, swift with small drops a few class III sections, definitely the possibility to get in over your head if you miss a turn, but we didn’t have any wood to deal with. Downstream of the vehicle is a canyon for a few miles. We hadn’t been able to scope the canyon so did that blind. It was fun swift water, no drops to speak of, and no wood. There is certainly the possibility of wood here so if you run it be aware.
The last section is the wider braided river that you can see from the highway.
We highly recommend this float as the scenery is grand and the floating is simply fun, with little slow water . We floated the lower section in about 1.5 hours, which includes several stops to bail.
Orange = Drive in ~3 miles
Red = Float ~8.5 miles
Blue = Obvious option ~20 miles
The “blue option” would make for about a 30 mile round trip, head up Congdon Creek (pretty sure there is a jeep trail for part of the way), hike down Dickson Creek to the Duke. If the river in section is similar to the lower section then the trip will be an “instant classic”.
Map link Duke River (NTS 115G06)
Just to reiterate, while this is not a particularly difficult river (at the water levels we had), it is by no means a beginners trip. It is remote, the water is glacier fed, and there are short sections of class III with almost continuous class II.