River Use Tips
While you travel the rivers and camp on the riversides of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, please consider how you can minimize your impact and have a safe trip. Here are some tips to make your visit safer, more enjoyable, and give those that follow you the same opportunity for a memorable Alaskan river trip.
Plan Ahead - Be Safe
Check with area land management agencies for river conditions and regulations specific to the area you plan to visit. For general information regarding Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve contact the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center. Park rangers can give you information about the waterways in the park and may be able to provide you with first hand trip reports. Obtain current weather forecasts, and information on water levels and what kind of fluctuations or hazards you might expect.
A U.S. Geological Survey topographical map, 1:63,360 scale, of the area you plan to visit and a compass will be valuable tools in preparing for your trip as well as navigating your planned route. Your map should allow you to keep track of your progress as you travel. Be aware that there is privately owned land within the park. An Alaska road map will help identify road access points for the road-accessible rivers within the vicinity of the park.
Once you have selected a campsite practice "Leave No Trace" camping skills. Since you will be in bear country, store food in bear resistant containers 100 yards from your campsite. We recommend that you bring drinking water or treat water taken from streams. Wash dishes and yourself 100 feet away from water sources and minimize your use of soap.
If you must build a fire, make a small fire in a shallow pit on sand or gravel and dispose of ashes in the river. Using a fire pan is another option. Hubcaps, gold pans, and old backyard barbecue grills are some economical, easily portable ideas for making a fire pan. Before disposing of ashes in the river, remove and pack out any trash left that has not burned completely, especially foil.
Avoid creating social trails by taking a variety of different routes when hiking around your camp. Do not disturb fish camps or fish traps, fishnets, or fishwheels. The annual salmon run is an important subsistence resource to many Alaskans. Do not remove artifacts or otherwise disturb any archeological sites, including old cabins and their contents. These historic and prehistoric sites are important resources and are protected by federal law.
Pack It In, Pack It Out
Dispose of all human waste. If you cannot pack out human waste you will need to bury it. Dig a small hole at least four to eight inches deep, preserving the topsoil and vegetation. After use, replace the soil and vegetation carefully. Make sure human waste is buried at least 200 feet from any water source. Try to urinate on rocks or sandy areas. All toilet paper and feminine hygiene products should be placed in airtight plastic bags and packed out.
Be Prepared for Alaskan Rivers
When you arrive at a difficult or hazardous stretch of water, stop, scout ahead, and line from a safe location on the bank or portage around the hazard to a safe area. Be extra cautious since help may be hours or more likely days away.
Always wear an approved, well-fitting personal flotation device while boating or fishing on any body of water and wear a helmet and wet or dry suit when appropriate. Dress warmly in layers of wool or synthetic materials that will keep you warm when wet. Pack your gear in waterproof bags and take at least one complete change of clothes and plenty of waterproof matches. Always tie your boat down when not in use to prevent rising water or the wind from taking it down the river without you.
The rivers of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve offer visitors adventure and solitude. It is possible to travel for days at a time without seeing another person, trail, sign, or bridge. Each river visitor is responsible for minimizing his or her impact on the river corridor to preserve the wild and pristine character of the river. Make "leaving no trace" of your visit and the safe completion of your journey down river the goals for your Alaskan adventure.
Last updated: December 6, 2015