Home Trips Adventures 13 Northern River Trips Of A Lifetime

13 Northern River Trips Of A Lifetime

Fill out your bucket list with these adventures to some of the most remote, scenic and wild places on Earth

beautiful view of a northern BC mountain and river landscape, perfect for the canoe trip of a lifetime
Feature photo: Karen Emsley/Unsplash

With endless wilderness, incredible wildlife like wolves, caribou and muskoxen, jaw-dropping canyons and the mythic allure of the midnight sun, it’s no surprise northern river trips in destinations like the Canadian Arctic and Alaska top the bucket lists of most paddlers. Expeditions on rivers like the Nahanni, the Tatshenshini and the Coppermine are truly trips of a lifetime.

But northern adventures don’t come easy. First, there’s the challenge of choosing a river and route that matches your skill level, experience and expectations. Then, planning and coordinating an epic adventure is almost as difficult as navigating a powerful and wild river safely.

Thankfully, there’s an easier, safer way to explore the planet’s last frontiers by canoe, kayak or raft. There are plenty of professional outfitters offering expertly guided northern river trips for beginners to experts and all paddlers in between. They handle the tricky logistics, supply top-notch equipment, provide training on the river, keep you safe and point out all the neat features along the way, as well as serve guests gourmet meals and often act as great entertainers.

Of course, the options are far vaster than those listed here, but we’ve focused on covering all corners of the North and choosing options for all types of adventurers. Read on to find our picks of the top northern river adventures.

Yukon

The Yukon still lives up to the legends of Robert Service and Jack London for its incredible wilderness and wildlife. This northern Canadian territory is bisected by soaring barren mountains and carved by free-flowing waterways, making it an amazing destination for adventurous paddlers.

1 Big Salmon River

Join the experts at Up North Adventures for a 15-day canoe expedition on the Big Salmon River, a lesser-known Yukon river that’s surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. The trip starts in Whitehorse, a vibrant northern community that will give you a sense of life in the Yukon. From there, the outfitter will transfer you and a group of like-minded paddlers to Quiet Lake, in the territory’s South Canol region, where you’ll access the pristine Big Salmon.

This 355-kilometer trip is perfect for intermediate canoeists, with class II rapids and standing waves. Up North Adventures supplies premium equipment and gourmet meals, and will keep you safe on the water and offer interpretation to enhance your experience.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Guide Service

8 Days or More

$3565 CAD Per Person

Up North Adventures

Big Salmon River – 15 Days

Step out of your busy world and into the exciting waters of the Big Salmon River for an exhilarating paddle under the midnight sun. Snow capped mountains surround you as your canoe glides through the pristine water. Starting at Quiet Lake in the beautiful South Canol region of the Yukon, you will admire the vast wilderness surrounding you which is home to moose, bear, fox, marten, beaver, and many other animals known to the Yukon.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Guide Service

8 Days or More

$3565 CAD Per Person


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2 Upper Pelly River

Wanapitei Canoe Expeditions’ Upper Pelly River canoe expedition ventures into the little-known headwaters of a spectacular Yukon river. Expect deep wilderness on this two-week trip, as the river flows through boreal forest amidst serrated peaks. The 280-kilometer route includes mostly class I and II whitewater, as well as a few portages around gorges and waterfalls. The outfitter handles all the logistics, equipment and meals—just bring your sense of adventure.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Yukon

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$5995 CAD Per Person

Wanapitei Canoe Expeditions

Upper Pelly River, Yukon

Only a few people venture to the remote reaches of the famous upper Pelly. We’ll start high in the mountains on Summit Lake. Over the 2 weeks we’ll first paddle a small tributary of the Pelly, then the Upper and the middle Pelly, travelling rapidly downstream with only a minimum of portaging as we make our way 280 km down through the stunning river valley and through a couple canyons to the Robert Campbell Highway. Rapids are mainly class 1 and class 2.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Yukon

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$5995 CAD Per Person


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3 Snake River

The Snake River is a classic Yukon wilderness adventure offered by the experienced guides at MHO Adventures. You’ll join a group of like-minded intermediate paddlers and expert guides on one of the most scenic rivers in the Peel Watershed, featuring amazing gravel bar campsites, excellent hiking and views of lofty peaks including 9,060-foot Mount MacDonald.

This 15-day, all-inclusive adventure starts in Whitehorse and includes a floatplane flight to the headwaters of the Snake at Duo Lakes, as well as a floatplane pickup near the river’s confluence with the Peel River.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Yukon

Canoeing

8 Days or More

$6735 USD | $9150 CAD Per Person

MHO Adventures

Snake River – Yukon

Located in East Central Yukon Territory, the Snake River finds itself in good company as one of six major tributaries of the Peel watershed alongside rivers such as the Hart, the Wind and Canadian Heritage River the Bonnet Plume. Lofty glacial peaks like Mount MacDonald tower above the swift-flowing upper Snake, one of the most stunning wild rivers in the Canadian North.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Yukon

Canoeing

8 Days or More

$6735 USD | $9150 CAD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

Northwest Territories

From towering mountains to big-sky Barrens, sprawling lakes and cascading rivers, there’s a huge range of adventures available in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The area is home to some of the most legendary canoe trips on the planet, with enough options to fill a paddler’s bucket list to the brim.

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4 South Nahanni River

The South Nahanni River is perhaps Canada’s most famous northern river trip, and for good reason: it features deep canyons, exciting whitewater, awe-inspiring Virginia Falls, and so much more. Canoe North Adventures enhances the typical Nahanni experience with an 11-day trip combining easy river canoeing with great hiking, giving your group intimate encounters with the Ragged Range, the tallest mountains in the Northwest Territories.

The all-inclusive trip includes a floatplane flight to Honeymoon Lake and floatplane pickup at Virginia Falls. Gourmet meals and expert guidance complete this trip-of-a-lifetime experience.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Nahanni

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8895 USD Per Person

Canoe North Adventures

Upper Nahanni Canoe and Hike, Northwest Territories

Dream of paddling the Nahanni River, but worried about the whitewater? This 11-day itinerary offers a fantastic “stress free” version of the Nahanni River experience. Paddle from the breathtakingly beautiful “Honeymoon Lake” through the rugged Ragged Range, the tallest mountains in the NWT, all the way to Virginia Falls. This section of the Nahanni features gentle current with only a handful of manageable class 1+ rapids to navigate.

Canada, Canadian Territories, Nahanni

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8895 USD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

5 Thomsen River

Black Feather Wilderness Adventures takes you on a unique 12-day expedition on the Thomsen River, the most northerly canoeable waterway in Nunavut’s Arctic archipelago. Bisecting Aulavik National Park on Banks Island, the smooth-flowing Thomsen transports you through an oasis for northern wildlife, including muskoxen and Peary caribou. All equipment, air transfers and gourmet meals are provided.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$13995 CAD Package Price

Black Feather

Thomsen River Canoe Trip

High above the Arctic Circle, the Thomsen River is the northerly-most canoeable river in North America. Flowing north through Aulavik National Park, the Thomsen provides an Arctic oasis for wildlife. Most of the world’s population of muskoxen can be found grazing near its river banks. Archaeological sites dot the landscape, and some ruins date back more then 4000 years. Rich in history and wildlife, the Thomsen River offers an Arctic experience like no other.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$13995 CAD Package Price


Leave a rating / review

6 Thelon River

Jackpine Paddle’s signature wilderness canoe trips on the Thelon River provide perspective on the sheer vastness of the Northwest Territories. The largest river in Canada’s iconic Barrenlands, the Thelon is noted for its amazing wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, caribou and muskoxen. The 193-kilometer Upper Thelon River expedition is a 12-day trip with no portages and easy whitewater, making it suitable for novices and intermediate paddlers.

You’ll encounter deep wilderness and enjoy gourmet meals and professional-grade equipment on this fly-in, fly-out bucket-list trip, with all the logistics handled by one of the most experienced outfitters in the North.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$9228 USD | $10910 CAD Per Person

Jackpine Paddle

Thelon River

We’ll be paddling the upper part of the Thelon River, the largest river in the Barren Lands and easily the most magnificent. The Thelon is, without question, the most remote and the most pristine wilderness river of any considerable size left in North America. Our 120 mile (193 km) long route is 80% river paddling. There are eight rapids along our route but no portages at all. There’s a good chance of seeing a few tundra wolves on this Thelon River canoe trip.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$9228 USD | $10910 CAD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

7 Broken Skull River

Don’t let the name of this river scare you away. With the expert guides at Black Feather Wilderness Adventures, intermediate canoe trippers can experience the Broken Skull River, a less-traveled tributary of the iconic Nahanni River, in the heart of the Mackenzie Mountains. This 11-day trip features class I and II whitewater, secluded hot springs and amazing hiking into alpine areas from campsites along the way.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8195 CAD Package Price

Black Feather

Broken Skull River Canoe Trip

The Broken Skull River is located in one of Canada’s newest national parks: Nááts’ihch’oh. The river is a little-known tributary of the fabled Tehjeh Deé (the South Nahanni River). Starting high in the Mackenzie Mountains, the river boasts excellent Class I and II whitewater, hot-springs, great hiking, and true untravelled wilderness. Paddlers will appreciate the Broken Skull River for its remoteness, scenic beauty, and the fact that it is so very rarely paddled.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8195 CAD Package Price


Leave a rating / review

Nunavut

This immense territory in the central Canadian Arctic is home to some of the longest—and wildest—rivers on the continent. From historic routes across the Barrens to rarely paddled rivers on the treeless islands of Canada’s Arctic Ocean, there’s something for every paddler to discover in Nunavut.

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8 Coppermine River

The majestic Coppermine River was a critical thoroughfare for local Indigenous and Inuit people long before it transported European explorers like Samuel Hearne and John Franklin to the Arctic Ocean. Jackpine Paddle’s two-week canoe expedition on the Coppermine River allows intermediate and advanced paddlers to journey safely on a Canadian Heritage waterway in the rocky, big-sky Barrenlands north of the Arctic Circle.

This is an all-inclusive adventure, including floatplane transfers to and from the river. Jackpine Paddle’s expert guides offer canoe instruction, prepare gourmet meals, give guests a better chance at seeing caribou, grizzly bears and gyrfalcons, and interpret numerous archeological sites along the river.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$7426 USD | $11225 CAD Per Person

Jackpine Paddle

Coppermine River

The barrenlands give birth to the Coppermine River, a Canadian Heritage River that jostles through a rock-ribbed landscape, bound for the far Arctic. You’ll cross into the true polar zone, a mythic region on a fraction of the travellers on earth have entered. The Coppermine River is known for profile arctic char fishing, alongside arctic grayling and lake trout. The historic Sandstone, Muskox and Escape Rapids are big volume rapids demanding both caution and expertise.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$7426 USD | $11225 CAD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

9 Hood River

If you’re an advanced whitewater canoe tripper looking to challenge your skills in deep wilderness, you won’t find a better trip than Black Feather Wilderness Adventures’ two-week expedition on the Hood River. This wild river cuts across Nunavut’s Barrenlands and across the Arctic Circle, before dumping into the Arctic Ocean at Bathurst Inlet. Besides plenty of exciting whitewater, you’ll enjoy great hiking in rugged, treeless terrain under the midnight sun and have the chance to see iconic northern wildlife like grizzly bears, caribou and muskoxen.

Black Feather is one of the most experienced outfitters in Canada’s North and handles all logistics, as well as supplies spraydeck-equipped canoes and camping gear. Black Feather guides not only keep you safe and offer coaching on the river, they also create gourmet riverside meals.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8495 CAD Package Price

Black Feather

Hood River Canoe Trip

The Hood River is a classic Barren Lands river, flowing through a mixture of arctic tundra, granite hills, and sandy eskers that stretch on for miles. Far above the treeline, the river flows for 300 km from its headwaters at Tahikafaaluk Lake to Arctic Sound on the Arctic Ocean. The canoeing season is short—the headwater lakes can be ice-choked to early July, and winter approaches in mid August.

Canada, Canadian Territories

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$8495 CAD Package Price


Leave a rating / review

Alaska

With a remarkable blend of skyscraping peaks, coastal fjords and countless wild rivers, Alaska easily earns its distinction as the wildest state in the Union. Such rugged, extreme conditions make Alaska a destination for the most hardened adventurers. However, a few options exist for mere mortals to get a taste of this legendary place.

10 Birch Creek

Alaska Dream Adventures offers a guided five-day canoe or kayak expedition on Birch Creek, a National Wild and Scenic River nestled in the state’s remote interior. The all-inclusive trip includes gear and meals, as well as expert guides to help you navigate the river’s class I to III rapids. This adventure provides a glimpse of wild Alaska, with exceptional opportunities for photography and a chance to experience deep wilderness in the safety of a group while you paddle 100 miles of free-flowing river.

United States, Alaska

Kayaking, Canoeing

Paddling Trip

4–7 Days

$750 USD Per Person

Alaska Dream Adventures

Birch Creek

Birch Creek is an amazing remote wilderness adventure. Over the course of five days and over 100 river miles, paddling difficulties range from Class I to Class III+ whitewater and rapids, depending on water level. This National Wild and Scenic River is a gem in the Alaskan Interior and offers ecotourism and wildlife viewing opportunities.

United States, Alaska

Kayaking, Canoeing

Paddling Trip

4–7 Days

$750 USD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

11 Gulkana River

Paddle with Alaska Dream Adventures and experience a classic Alaskan salmon river on the Gulkana, a class I to III waterway surrounded by stunning wilderness. This trip is best for intermediate whitewater kayakers with some experience. All gear and meals are provided, as well as expert guides to keep you safe. The four-day trip includes a half-mile portage around a gorge and waterfalls. It’s no surprise the fishing is world-class.

Alaska

Kayaking

Paddling Trip

4–7 Days

$600 USD Per Person

Alaska Dream Adventures

Gulkana River

Gulkana River (National Wild and Scenic River) is one of the most interesting destinations for those who want to experience Alaska wilderness on an historic salmon stream. There is a half mile portage around a beautiful canyon Rapid and small waterfall. The river is rated class II+ to III for about 8 miles leading to some exciting paddling opportunities.

Alaska

Kayaking

Paddling Trip

4–7 Days

$600 USD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

British Columbia

Northwestern British Columbia shares much of the same spectacular sea-to-sky scenery as Alaska. This is a mountainous landscape of grizzly bears, coastal peaks and expert-only whitewater rivers, including the notorious Stikine River. Still, less-experienced paddlers can also get a taste of this iconic landscape on guided trips.

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12 Turnagain River

Elements Adventure Company’s two-week canoe expedition on the historic Turnagain River includes 300 kilometers of paddling in the traditional territories of the Kaska Dena and Tahltan people. The adventure begins with a floatplane flight to the river’s headwaters at Dease Lake in Northwestern British Columbia. The Turnagain is best for intermediate to advanced canoe trippers, with class II to III whitewater and a challenging portage around Turnagain Falls. You’ll feel tiny amidst the rugged Cassiar Mountains and have plenty of options for hiking to scenic vistas from campsites along the way.

Canada

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$5500 CAD Package Price

Elements Adventure Company

Turnagain River Expedition

Join us on our exploratory first descent down the Turnagain River! This two week journey in the shared traditional territory of the Kaska Dena and Tahltan people, covers over 300 km of remote wilderness in BC’s Cassiar Mountains, from pristine alpine headwaters through diverse mountain landscapes with plenty of whitewater along the way. This clear river starts small and playful as the water begins it’s long journey to the Arctic ocean.

Canada

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$5500 CAD Package Price


Leave a rating / review

Ontario

If you don’t associate Canada’s most populous province with northern rivers, you’re missing out on the massive expanse of northern Ontario. Surrounded by boreal forest, wild rivers traverse some of the last-remaining mid-latitude wilderness on the planet, spilling off the Canadian Shield and destined for the Arctic waters of James Bay.

13 Missinaibi River

Canoe nine days with MHO Adventures on the historic Missinaibi River, descending class I to III rapids to incredible Thunder House Falls. This fully guided expedition includes all gear, gourmet meals and expert guides to keep you safe on the river, ending with a scenic floatplane flight back to civilization. Many canoe trippers consider the Missinaibi to be the perfect gateway to longer, more remote expeditions elsewhere in Canada’s North, so get ready to whet your appetite for more.

Canada, Northwestern Ontario

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$3499 USD | $4675 CAD Per Person

MHO Adventures

Thunderhouse Falls Fly Out

Together we will travel 145 kms over 9 days, playing and practising our whitewater skills in Class I to Class III rapids as we make our way to Bull Moose Bay. We begin our adventure on this middle section of the Missinaibi River at a secluded bush road access point referred to as ‘Camp 95’. Located a couple of days upstream of the town of Mattice, the halfway point on the river.

Canada, Northwestern Ontario

Canoeing

Paddling Trip

8 Days or More

$3499 USD | $4675 CAD Per Person


Leave a rating / review

Feature photo: Karen Emsley/Unsplash

 

 

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