Floating the Yukon in an Alpacka

My brother and I want to float the Yukon River from Whitehorse, YT to Circle, AK this summer. We have relatively little rafting experience, having gone on guided whitewater trips twice. He has also rafted a calm part of the Colorado in an inflatable raft.

I was wondering if an Alpacka or similar would work well in a river as big and as swift as the Yukon. The guidebook I am reading (by Dan Maclean) says that rafts are inadvisable as they are very susceptible to the wind and the current. The Yukon has a lot of both. Now I’m not sure whether he means homemade wooden rafts, but I could see how a packraft have similar issues. I would be nervous to take out and rely on a craft that has such issues when we will be so far from the road.

Does anyone have any experience with this?

Hey Jeff,

Just got your PM as well but better to reply in the forum so it can help other people.

People with zero canoeing experience paddle the Yukon every year, it’s not a challenging river and has almost no rapids to speak of. In a packraft you’re more stable than a canoe. It’s also been traveled by stand-up paddleboard, bathtub, home-made rafts of all shapes and sizes, york boat… . I saw a two-person sailing inflatable head down the river last year.

Here are some things to consider:

Speed: Alpackas are much slower compared to canoes or kayaks. You’ll take longer than the guidebooks suggest but also keep in mind that most canoe trippers tend to float (not paddle) for 4-5 hours a day. If you’re on the river longer you can cover ground.
Wind: Prevailing winds are normally from the South (ie. tailwind) but you could have headwinds.
Lake Laberge: This is a big lake and if the winds are up can get really wavy. It is well known for tipping and sinking all kinds of boats. Again, you’re more stable in the Alpacka than many other watercraft and you can always head for shore, pack up and start hiking. Also be aware that in May it could well still have ice on it.

I’m in Whitehorse so if you come up here look me up. anthony.delorenzo@gmail.com is the best way to get in touch.

Hi jj,

My girlfriend and I floated the Yukon from Eagle to Circle last summer in early August. We too were a little cautious and unsure about the trip given the volume and size of the river. People had told us about the river sucking down trees and spitting them up hundreds of yards downstream. But this was not our experience. It was awesome.

A few things:

Speed: generally not an issue since the current is so swift. Our gps showed we made it over 10mph a couple times. I think we averaged about six mph. And one day we decided not to paddle at all and found we weren’t much slower than actually paddling.

Wind: we must have been lucky. Not much of an issue. Kick up a few times to about 15 mph, but current was strong enough to counter.

Crossing: crossing the yukon in a packraft takes a long time, like half a mile or more of downstream travel because of the current. We missed a number of good campsites or lunch stops because of this. So plan way ahead of time if you need to cross.

One thing we did was clip our boats together side to side (facing each other) with small carabiners on the grab lines at bow and stern. This was awesome. We could just float along together, spin around, watch animals, eat food, etc. without any worry of getting grabbed by the current.

Take advantage of the public use cabins in alaska. Especially if the weather is bad.

It’s awesome! We ended wanting to do the section in Canada. Enjoy.


Just throwing it out there as an idea that you could follow the route of the Klondike gold rush from Skagway, Alaska by Hiking the Chilkoot Trail then paddling to Dawson City. Only problem is you end up paddling a lot of very long, very windy lakes.

Re: paddling the lakes, see this thread:

Hey myself and 3 sons plan on floating the Yukon next summer eagle to circle. My problem so far is how to get from Fairbanks to eagle will our gear and either raft or canoes. Anyone have any suggestions. From North Carolina

Fly with Everts AIr. Bring your rafts or fold up canoes on board. Great trip. if you use canoes, paddle up the tributaries whenever you can. They have restrictions on what type of fuel you can bring, so ask them.