The Alsek River and its major tributary, the Tatshenshini River, are large volume, swift, glacial rivers. Beginning in the interior, it is one of a small number of river systems which breach the coastal range, offering boaters uncommon ecological diversity, impressive scenery and an outstanding wilderness experience.
Planning and executing a river trip on the Alsek-Tatshenshini Rivers is a lengthy, expensive and complex process. Please be ready to commit the time necessary to get to and from the river in addition to running it. Be prepared to pay high fees for drop off services and bush airplane charters. For most groups the only way out of Dry Bay is by airplane charter.
Dalton Post (Shawshe): The mostly used put-in is Post (Shawshe) which is 140 river miles (224 km) to the take-out at Dry Bay, Alaska. A six mile-long canyon immediately below Shawshe offers continuous Class III whitewater, Class IV at high water (International Scale, Class I-VI). The remainder of the river is generally Class II with large eddies and folds at normal volumes. The difficulty of the river surprises many river runners. The put-in is also on land owned by the Champagne & Aishihik First Nations in Canada. This is part of their traditional lands and portions of the area are sacred. When you arrive at Dalton Post (Shawshe), please read the informational bulletin boards and obey the posted signs and regulations. The maps and information will direct you to the put-in. Please respect the land and requests of the Champagne-Aishihik people.
If you are not prepared for and willing to commit to this magnitude of wilderness trip, please do not get on the waiting list, get a permit, and then cancel. This only reduces other river runners' opportunities to float the rivers.
You must comply with all U.S. and Canadian Customs, conservation and other laws. Contacts: U.S. Customs Service, P.O. Box 1509, Haines, AK, 99827, (907) 767-5511. Canada Customs, Box 4520, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 2R8,(867) 667-3964.
Glacier Bay National Park/Preserve, Kluane National Park & Reserve, British Columbia Parks, Yukon Territorial Government and Champagne & Aishihik First Nations continue to work on a joint international river management plan. Until the time an international plan is in place, Glacier Bay National Park/Preserve will manage the private permit system. Note: All fees collected are used to offset administrative, maintenance, patrol and personnel costs in managing the river and river permit system.
Permits and Fees:
- Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve requires a permit to travel and camp on the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers. Glacier Bay maintains the waiting list; $25.00 (U.S.) fee is required for placement on the list. A $100.00 (U.S.) fee is required for permit.
- Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (British Columbia Parks) Fee is $100.00 or $125.00 (CAN) per person, depending on the date of the trip, for all Alsek and Tatshenshini trips.
- Kluane National Park: For travel on the upper Alsek, through Kluane, private boaters must contact and register to obtain a put-in date. For this information and to receive river management guidelines, contact Kluane National Park, Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada, YOB 1L0, (867) 634-7207, Fax: (867) 634-7208. Kluane has a variety of park-specific bear protection guidelines such as designated camping, which all river users must follow. Firearms of any type are not permitted in Kluane National Park. Human waste carryout is mandatory. Boaters who applied for and received one of the reserved Alsek put-in dates must contact Kluane NP for their backcountry permit.
- Customs: Trips must comply with all U.S. Customs and Canadian Customs requirements. You can contact U.S. Customs at (907) 767-5511 and Canadian Customs at (867) 667-3964. Detailed customs information will be sent with the permit.
- Trips entering the United States must have been legally registered as required by Canadian authorities. Please be aware that you are traveling through two other parks on the river: Kluane National Park on the Alsek River and Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in British Columbia on the Tatshenshini River and lower Alsek River.
Permit Application Procedures:
- Apply for Waiting List
- An individual may write or call the Yakutat Ranger Station at any time to be placed on the waiting list for a private trip permit. Include name, phone number, mailing address, and email address.
- Email us here (Complete address fields and include phone # in "your message")
- Mail: Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, PO Box 140, Gustavus, AK 99826
- Phone: (907) 697-2603
- There is a $25 (U.S.) administrative charge to be placed on the waiting list. Payments are only accepted at: www.pay.gov.
- Select "Alsek/Tat River Permits (Waitlist) $25.00." For assistance with payment online you may also call the Yakutat Ranger Station.
- Confirmation will be sent to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve from pay.gov.
- Placement on the waiting list will occur after payment confirmation is received. Individual will receive a confirmation email from Glacier Bay with current waiting list number.
- Submit Date Request Application
- In November, the entire waiting list will be contacted through email concerning date requests for the following season.
- Date request applications for everyone on the waiting list will be due December 13th.
- Individuals may request any date listed on the application, regardless of your waiting list number. The better your position on the waiting list, the greater your chances of obtaining a permit with the date you would like to end your trip at Dry Bay.
- Those who are one of the first 40 people on the waiting list may take a date for the next season or defer until the following year. If a permit date is not taken the following year, the person is removed from the waiting list. Only one deferral is allowed after your waiting list number is below 40.
- Allocation of Permits
- After Date Request Applications are received, allocation of permits will be completed in late December.
- All individuals will be contacted in December concerning either their permit date or their new waiting list number.
- Once you receive notification that you will receive a permit, your name is taken off the waiting list.
- After permit applications are returned and issued in January, anyone on the waiting list is eligible for any untaken dates or any canceled permits and may call for this information at (907) 697-2603. This is a 24-hour recording and message line.
- Submit Permit Application and Fee
- Individuals awarded a permit date must then pay their $100.00 (U.S.) permit fee and return their application by January 19th.
- Payments are only accepted online at www.pay.gov.
- Select "Alsek/Tat River Permit $100.00." For assistance with payment online you may also contact the Yakutat Ranger Station.
- If the fee and application are not received, and the Yakutat Ranger Station is not contacted, the permit will be canceled and the individual must reapply to the waiting list.
- River Permits Issued
- Once the application is signed by permittee and payment is confirmed the final Glacier Bay river permit will be sent through email no later than May 1st.
- Once you have taken a trip as a permittee, you must wait until January 1 the following year to apply again to the waiting list.
- An individual may participate in one noncommercial river trip per season. This is to allow more people to participate in trips.
- Glacier Bay will forward list of permittees to British Columbia and Kluane National Parks.
- Individuals traveling the upper Alsek River need to register to obtain a put-in-date and pay user fees with Kluane National Park.
- Individuals traveling the Tatshenshini-Alsek will need to pay associated river fee through British Columbia Parks.
- If you cancel your permit by January 19, you will forfeit your permit fee, but may be placed back on the waiting list at your current number.
- If you cancel your trip by April 1, you will be penalized by forfeiting your permit fee, but you may move to the end of the waiting list without paying the administrative charge.
- If you cancel your trip after April 1, you will be penalized by not being allowed to reapply to the waiting list for two years and you forfeit your permit fee.
- If you are a "no show" for your river trip, you will not be allowed to reapply for a trip for five years and you forfeit your permit fee.
Scheduling is done to provide an equal number of private and commercial permits throughout the peak season, June 10-Sept. 17. Outside of the peak season, scheduling is for 1 commercial trip on even days and 1 private trip on odd days. Only one trip per day is allowed to arrive at Dry Bay. Since there is no limit on trip length or put-in date (on the Tatshenshini), be aware that there may be other parties putting in at Dalton Post on the same day. If you want to avoid other people, you may want to consider trips early or late in the season. It is also possible to work with other boaters, both commercial and private, to avoid conflicts at the put-in and popular campsites or with shuttles. The application provides a check-off if you would like your application information shared with other river users to coordinate shuttles and air taxis.
Keep in mind that trips arriving at Dry Bay before the third week in June may experience, depending on spring weather conditions, pan ice/ice blockage on Alsek Lake, requiring a portage of up to ½ mile. In recent years the channel leading to the airstrip has dried up and most groups choose to hire someone to haul their gear from the main channel to the airstrip rather than row/drag up the slack water in the lower end of the channel. Commercial portage services are available at Dry Bay and low or high water can happen at any time.
Depending on weather conditions in the Yukon, flood conditions sometime occur on the upper Tatshenshini below Dalton Post especially in late May-early June and late September-early October.
Dry Bay is not road accessible. Charter flights from Dry Bay can be arranged to Yakutat, which is served by Alaska Airlines, or directly to Whitehorse, Haines, Juneau, etc. From a weather standpoint, the flight to Yakutat is the most reliable option. Flight arrangements must be made prior to departing. A list of permitted air charters is enclosed. A park ranger living in Dry Bay during the summer can be contacted for emergencies. The established take-out, adjacent to the main airstrip, includes a camping area, food storage building, and outhouse. There is no telephone or trash pickup available. The Dry Bay area supports an active commercial set gill-net fishery. River runners should respect their livelihoods and not disrupt their operations. Stay clear of nets, fish camps and other private property. There are three lodges and a shuttle service operating in Glacier Bay National Preserve. They offer lodging and other services and their addresses and telephone numbers are enclosed.
Note: The arrival date to Dry Bay must be adhered to. This is the date you arrive at Dry Bay. There is no restriction on how long you can camp at Dry Bay after your arrival date before your flight out. We recommend scheduling your air taxi pick-up for the day after your Dry Bay arrival. The Dry Bay arrival date spaces river trips to preserve a quality wilderness experience. Arriving at Dry Bay on other than your arrival date will result in a citation and/or court appearance, and denial of future permits/trips on the rivers.
- A non-commercial river trip must be participatory in nature. All members of the group must share in the trip preparation (including logistics, food purchases, equipment assembly, transportation, and vehicle shuttle) and the trip itself (including food preparation and sanitation). Collecting a fee (monetary compensation) payable to an individual, group or organization for conducting, leading, or guiding a noncommercial river trip is not allowed.
- The non-commercial permit is not transferable.
- Non-commercial river trips are limited to a maximum of 15 persons.
- The trip permittee is responsible for the actions of his or her party.
- There is no limit on trip length. Camping is restricted to one night at each of the following areas: Walker Glacier, the Alsek Lake Peninsula/Spit, and Gateway Knob; except you may camp an extra night at one of these three sites. This restriction is in place to lessen the impact on these popular areas.
- Rafts. Inflatable rafts from 12'-18' with rowing frames are recommended.
- Canoes and Kayaks. Rigid hull kayaks are acceptable for the river; however they do present a problem with transport out of Dry Bay. Currently, the only air taxi which can transport most rigid hull kayaks or canoes is the Hawker-Siddley (Air North). Open canoes and folding kayaks are not recommended. A minimum of two boats per party is recommended for safety. Rescue gear and emergency equipment, including a radio, are recommended. On supported and unsupported kayak trips, one spare paddle and one extra life preserver are required for every 4 kayaks and/or canoes. If there are fewer than 4 kayaks or canoes, one spare paddle and one spare life preserver are required.
- Boat registration. All watercraft operating in Glacier Bay NP/P must be registered according to boat owner's home state’s or country’s rules of registration.
- Motorized craft are not permitted under this permit system.
- Life Preservers and Regulations. Each participant must have a serviceable U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) Type I, II, III, or V. One extra PFD must be carried for every 10 persons or one per raft. These must be maintained in good and serviceable condition in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard Standards. A throwable cushion (U.S. Coast Guard approved, Type IV) or rope throw bag is required for each watercraft 16 feet in length and over. Rope throw bags are recommended for all watercraft.
- First Aid. A comprehensive first aid kit is recommended. A smaller kit is also recommended for each separate boat.
- Communications and signaling. A ground-to-air and/or VHF Marine Band radio transceiver is recommended. (Air to Ground Frequencies are 122.9 for the Alsek River area and 121.5 emergency frequency). Marine Band radios (emergency Channel 16) are practical only in certain areas below the international boundary and from Gateway Knob downstream. Any satellite communication or beacon devices that work at 60 degrees N latitude should work adequately.
- Cellular phones do not work anywhere along the river corridor, but satellite phones work most of the time depending on the surrounding terrain.
- Signaling equipment at a minimum should include a signal mirror, flares or smoke and two 3-foot by 10-foot panels of international orange that can be placed in an "X" so as to be visible from aircraft.
- Other emergency items. One extra set of oars is recommended for each oar-powered boat or raft. Two extra paddles should be carried on rafts that are paddle powered. Each trip with rafts should carry at least one air pump. Each trip must carry a boat patching and repair kit.
- Incidents. Any incident resulting in personal injury requiring a physician's attention, evacuation from the river or property damage over $100, and any wildlife encounters/problems must be reported to the NPS as soon as possible at the end of the trip. You may report to the Dry Bay Ranger, the Yakutat Ranger Station or Park headquarters at Bartlett Cove.
- Firearms. Firearms are not allowed in Kluane National Park and are limited to licensed individuals in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park. Recent changes in Canadian firearms laws have made it difficult to transport any firearms into Canada from the US or elsewhere. It is allowable to carry the "bear pepper sprays" and “bear bangers” (noise makers). American brands must have a Canadian pesticide permit listed on the can for transport in Canada. Contact Canadian Customs for details. (There are strict limitations on carrying "pepper spray" in aircraft. Check with your air carrier.)
Environmental Protection and Sanitation:
An Environmental Ethics brochure was written by the commercial white-water companies in conjunction with the National Park Service, Parks Canada and the British Columbia Parks Department. Copies sent on request and are included with permits.
The Tatshenshini-Alsek Rivers are managed for their wilderness values. Minimum impact recreation and camping are required to protect the resources. The permit system ensures a limited level of use and impact on these resources. The maximum party size for private groups is 15 persons and there are camping restrictions at certain popular areas. Human waste carryout is required for all boaters. There is no dump station at the rafter take-out at Dry Bay. Copies of information on toilet sales, dump stations and rental sources will be sent with the permit. All trash must be carried out of the area; there is no public dump at Dry Bay. Fire pans are required and all firewood must be dead and down. Black and brown bears inhabit the area and you must know how to camp safely in bear country. It is extremely important that bears not receive any food from visitors. Firearms are not permitted in Kluane NP/R or Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park.
Glacier Bay National Park regulations:
- Pets are not permitted on river trips within Glacier Bay National Park.
- Possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging or disturbing from its natural state any plants, rocks, animals, mineral, cultural or archeological resources is prohibited except for the following:
- Fish taken under State of Alaska sport fishing laws.
- The gathering or collecting by hand and for personal use only of the following renewable resources is permitted: natural plant food items, including fruits, berries and mushrooms, but not including threatened or endangered species; driftwood and uninhabited sea shells; and dead and down firewood for use in fires within park areas.
- Surface collection, by hand and for personal recreational use only, of rocks and minerals is permitted: provided however, that collection of silver, platinum, gemstones and fossils is prohibited and collection methods which may result in disturbance of the ground surface, such as the use of shovels, pickaxes, and sluice boxes are prohibited.
- Feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities is prohibited.
- Campfires must be in a pan if they are within 1/2 mile of the river.
- Within ½ mile of the river all solid human waste must be carried out. There is no longer a dump station at the Dry Bay take out.
(This is not a complete listing of applicable laws or regulations applying to Glacier Bay National Park/Preserve, Kluane National Park, or Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park.)
References and Other Contact Information
Topographic maps are available through the U.S. Geological Survey 4230 University Dr., Room 101
Anchorage, AK 99508 (907-786-7011). . U.S. maps include (1:63,360): Skagway B-8, Yakutat A1, A-2, B-1.
Canadian maps are available through private distributors. You can call the Canada Map Office at 800-465-6277 for more information or access a list of dealers using web site, http://maps.nrcan.gc.ca.
In Whitehorse, Yukon, maps are available through Max Fireweed Books (800-661-0508). Canadian maps include (1:50,000): 115 A/3, 114 P/14, 114 P/11, 114 P/6, 114 P/5.
Cloudburst Productions of Haines, AK publishes a guide and map to the Tatshenshini and lower Alsek Rivers.
Authorized Air Taxi Services Serving Dry Bay
PO Box 854
Cordova, AK 99574
Bent Prop Flying Service
PO Box 521842
Big Lake, Alaska 99652
Earth Center Adventures Inc./ Fly Drake
PO Box 411
Haines, AK 99827
Mountain Flying Service
Haines, Alaska, 99827
Yakutat Coastal Airways
P.O. Box 163
Yakutat, AK 99689