The Yukon River is the 2nd longest in North America (behind the Missouri-Mississippi), at 1,980 miles. By drainage basin, it comes in 5th. As for Pacific Ocean-draining rivers of my home continent, the mighty Yukon ranks number one in both categories.

 

Travelling the Yukon source-to-sea has been on my to-do list since 2006, when I paddled all 800 miles of British Columbia’s Fraser, and my source-to-sea project was hatched. With naive optimism borne of my Fraser success, I thought I might descend all four of North America’s principal Pacific rivers—Fraser, Columbia, Colorado, Yukon—by the time I was 40. My 40th birthday passed quietly fourteen years ago. I’m just now setting my sights on river #3, the storied Yukon. Naivete’ has at least been supplanted by persistence.

Fraser River 2006

The plan: Start on the Pacific Ocean at Haines, Alaska – fly onto the Juneau Icefield – ski across the Willison Glacier – packraft down Willison Creek (the true Yukon source?) – motor Atlin, Tagish, Marsh Lakes – row the Yukon 800 miles to Fort Yukon – motor and row 1,000 miles to the Bering Sea. What could possibly go wrong?

Ski-to-source partner Jon Hirsh during training ski slog on Kachina Peaks. I recently interviewed Jon for the Boatman’s Quarterly Review

Planning and training has kept me busy these last few months. Departure is less than a week away. I’m feeling pretty good about things. Perhaps my old side-kick naivete’ is back at my side?

Yukon boat training run in Glen Canyon