When is the best time to raft the Tatshenshini River?

Ranging from the rolling, forested hills of the Yukon interior to the towering coastal ranges of the Alaskan panhandle and blanketed with one of the most impressive icefields on the planet, the Tatshenshini river journeys through a uniquely diverse landscape. Add in its proximity to the Gulf of Alaska you are right to wonder when the best time to visit is!

To answer your question: we run all of our expeditions in the statistically best windows for weather and water levels. However, each part of the season brings something new to enjoy and choosing between them can be tough! Our guide team stay abreast of the weather conditions and using their experience and our selection of professional equipment you can be sure weather won’t put a damper on your journey! 

A campsite on the Tatshenshi River with the blue ice of Walker Glacier in the background, and wildflowers in the foreground.
Wildflower juxtapose beautifully with the ancient blue ice of Walker Glacier

Our June and early July departures travel on a quiksilver highway as the melting winter snow swells the upper Tatshenshini River. As the waters slowly recede the shoreline comes alive with wild-flowers. The soft petals of dwarf fireweed, also known as river beauty (Chamerion latifolium), blend into the blushing midnight sun and stand in stark relief to glacial blues. Another early summer favourite of ours is the chance to view mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). Clumps of their thick winter coats can be found snagged on the low brush in alpine meadows. 

A grizzly bear looking for a feed of salmon on the Tatshenshini River.
Beginning in late July, grizzly bears in the Tatshenshini feast on salmon

Late July and early August is the season of salmon. The Tatshenshini is home to all five species of Pacific salmon and as they return to their birthplace they draw in grizzly bears and bald eagles. A scene etched into my memory is of a tawny, female grizzly waiting patiently on the gravel bars below Monkey Wrench rapid. As she stared into the afternoon glare for the telltale flash of dinner her cub clowned in the shallow around her. It seemed keen to splash about and displayed little curiosity in its mother’s solemn form. Looking away for a second I glanced back to see a silver, metre long form shaking in her mouth. This certainly caught the attention of her cub and highlighted the speed of these great bears! 

During these summer journeys, the bright colours of the flowers are still with us and a constant water level sees us in camp with plenty of time for an interpretive walk or a riverside happy hour! 

A glorious mid-summer day on the Tatshenshini River
A glorious mid-summer day on the Tatshenshini River

The end of August sees the hillsides turning auburn, yellow and crimson. The river flows smooth and silent as the last salmon swim past the historic Southern Tutchone village site of Nesketaheen. A sense of peace and fullness seems to fill the spruce forests and the lower river valley stands stark with the dark stone of the alpine standing strong over the valley.  Alsek Lake and its myriad ice-bergs sit serene below the tallest coastal peak in the world, Mount Fairweather. 

Rafters floating next to an iceberg on Alsek Lake on a journey down the Tatshenshini River.
The towering Mt. Fairweather (15,325′) overlooks Alsek Lake’s icebergs

“When is the best time of the year to experience the Tatshenshini?” The answer might just be… When works best for you?! It is an incredible natural treasure that the more you learn about it the more you fall in love with it.

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Whether you journey to experience abundant wildlife, verdant wildflowers or glacial vistas, our journeys are sure to exceed your expectations.

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