Floating the Yukon River: Eagle to Circle

Deep in Interior Alaska, the great Yukon River strikes through bluffs and mountains of an ancient landscape to unmask rocks whose histories reach back a billion years to life's beginnings on Earth. Axis of the region, the silt-laden Yukon here flows constricted and swift through a great geologic fault. Side-streams tumble from the hinterlands - further passageways long inviting human traffic.

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7 minutes, 48 seconds

A hyperlapse is a moving timelapse and, in this case, it is of the 100 mile stretch of Yukon River from Eagle, Alaska to Slaven's Roadhouse in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Complete with notable location descriptions, this virtual tour of the Yukon River is for entertainment and basic orientation purposes. Please use it as a visual and mental reference, in addition to proper river information and maps. Enjoy a boat ride down the Yukon, regardless of your location or the weather!

The Yukon River originates in the coastal mountains of Canada and flows 1,979 miles in a wide arc to the Bering Sea. The river flows northwest through Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for 128 miles. The river is silt laden in summer due to glacial runoff, and it is completely clear in winter when glaciers are frozen. As the river enters the preserve near Eagle, it flows across a narrow floodplain flanked by high bluffs and heavily forested hills. The bluffs become less prominent as the river leaves the preserve near Circle.


Visitors access Eagle by driving via the Taylor Highway or flying in on small aircraft. After arriving in Circle, visitors may drive out on the Steese Highway or fly to Eagle or Fairbanks. Motorized and non-motorized boats of all sizes and types are the principal means of travel on this section of the Yukon River. Common non-motorized vessels used are canoes, kayaks, homemade wooden rafts, and inflatable rafts. Motorized jet boats are often preferred since props can be easily damaged on unseen gravel bars. Visitors may bring their own vessels or rent canoes or rafts locally. Jet skis and other personal watercraft are prohibited in the preserve.

A canoeist on the Yukon River in front of Eagle
A canoeist begins the journey downriver from Eagle.

NPS/Josh Spice

Trip Length

The journey from Eagle to Circle is 158 miles long with most visitors traveling from late May through September. The Yukon River flows at an average speed of 5 to 8 miles per hour. Trip length varies depending on weather conditions, type of boat, and whether visitors continually float during long daylight hours or if they stop to camp and explore. Visitors who float approximately 30 miles a day and camp each night usually take around 5 days to reach Circle. Extra supplies should always be taken in case trip time is extended due to weather or other unplanned events. For the safety of visitors, the NPS recommends that floaters file a Voluntary Backcountry Trip Plan with the preserve and a friend or relative. Floaters can also file a voluntary backcountry trip plan in-person at the Eagle visitor center. For questions or to obtain a trip plan, contact the Eagle visitor center at (907) 547-2233.

What to Bring

In Eagle, there is a basic general store, a restaurant, a small hotel, and a bed & breakfast. Gas, propane and diesel are also available. Circle, on the downstream side of the preserve, also has limited facilities, including a general store and fuel. It is recommended that visitors bring all necessary camping gear and supplies. Visitors must be self-sufficient since there are no developed areas between Eagle and Circle and assistance may be days away. Visitors should be prepared for all weather conditions because conditions can change rapidly and may be extreme, even in July. All visitors should wear personal flotation devices (life preservers) and keep emergency gear with them, such as a first aid kit, whistle, signal mirror, knife, magnesium fire starter, waterproof matches, and tightly sealed emergency rations. Other items to bring may include waterproof topographic maps, compass, GPS, two-way radio, and/or personal ELT.

Camping on the Yukon River

NPS/Josh Spice


Gravel bars are recommended for camping since they are often breezy and deter the infamous Alaska mosquitoes. Gravel bars also allow ease of access, compared to vast areas of steep cutbanks, and for visitors to be out in the open where they are less likely to surprise or be surprised by wildlife. Minimum impact camping techniques are encouraged. For example, making a campfire on a gravel bar instead of in the trees is not only less likely to start a wildfire, but all evidence will be washed away with the next high water event.

Watch a short video on staying safe in bear country to learn safe and responsible practices for recreating on Alaska's wild lands. Learn more about bear safety through the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers' bear safety page.

Bear-resistant food containers (BRFCs) are not required but strongly encouraged for your overnight visit to Yukon-Charley Rivers. BRFCs are available free of charge at the Eagle Visitor Center and at the Fairbanks Alaska Public Lands Information Center. BRFCs are provided first come, first serve, and cannot be reserved in advance. Yukon-Charley Rivers provides both steel drum BRFCs with locking lids and smaller backpacker BRFCs.

Be aware that backpacker barrels are loaned for hiking, packrafting, and kayaking only, where the large steel BRFCs are impossible to use. Canoeists are required to use the steel BRFCs, available free of charge in Eagle and Fairbanks.

For those not using the recommended BRFCs, we strongly encourage caching all food and scented items a minimum of 100 feet from camp and suspending at least 10 feet above ground. However, due to the nature of the trees in this area of Alaska, this is often exceptionally challenging or not possible, as the area is dominated by short spruce trees with limbs not strong enough to support weight. A few areas around waterways provide taller and stronger poplar trees where this may be possible.

Please dispose of inedible game parts, fish and food scraps that could attract bears at least 300 yards from camp and below high water level. Do not leave food or scraps, as this may attract bears and present a hazard for the next traveler.

For more links on safety and planning your trip to Yukon-Charley Rivers, visit the Fairbanks Alaska Public Lands Information Center's website.

Glenn Creek Public Use Cabin view over the Yukon River in summer

Public Use Cabins

Take yourself back in time with a stay in one of the seven public use cabins that are available on a first come, first served basis. Split some wood and head inside to light a blaze in the wood stove, under the light of an oil lamp. Enjoy the warmth as your gear dries out from a long journey down the mighty Yukon River.
Please replace the firewood, but keep the memories.
Windfall Mountain Fire

Geology Down the Yukon River

Today, geologic processes continue within the Yukon River corridor. The diverse, uniquely beautiful arrays of rock formations along the river provide the visitor with a relatively intact record of the past 600 million years of geologic history in Eastcentral Alaska.
Topographic Map Information

USGS maps may be purchased at your local USGS office, on-line at https://store.usgs.gov, or at the Fairbanks Alaska Public Lands Information Center (limited maps available).

USGS 1:63,000 Maps needed to cover the trip from Eagle to Circle are Eagle D-1; Charley A-1, A-2, B-2, B-3, B-4, B-5, B-6, C-6, and D-6; and Circle C-1 and D-1.

Red sunset on the Yukon River
A red sunset reflects off the Yukon River

NPS/Josh Spice

Last updated: April 28, 2021

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