Alaska’s Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers—SECE 5800—3 credits
July 13-27, 2013
The Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers have their headwaters in the extremely rugged regions of northwest British Columbia and Yukon. Their corridors and tributaries connect a vast wilderness composed of adjoining parks and preserves in the United States and Canada that covers more than 60,000 square miles. This is the largest protected international ecological unit in the world. It contains the largest non-polar ice field in the world, the highest coastal mountain range in the world and the only completely protected large river drainage system in North America. In recognition of its extraordinary scenic and wildlife values, the Tatshenshini-Alsek wilderness area has been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. It is one of the “must see” places of the world, where pristine nature still exists to excite the imagination and nourish the spirit!
Traveling by river is the only way to see and experience the incredible biological and geographical diversity that exists within the Tatshenshini-Alsek wilderness area. From the alder and aspen forests of the Yukon, through the steep mountain valleys of British Columbia, to the ice fields of Alaska’s Glacier Bay, the
river sweeps through landscapes of wondrous size and design. There are some exciting rapids the first day, where the river is contained by a narrow, winding canyon. After that, it mellows out as it spreads over an ever-broadening flood plain to eventually become more than a mile wide. Each day on the river has exciting new sites, sounds and sensations.
Camp on gravel beaches warmed by clusters of flaming fireweed and purple lupine. Hike along rushing streams teaming with salmon. Climb to high mountain valleys with magnificent views and vistas. Walk upon the surface of a glacier for an
up-close look at giant seracs, deep crevasses and sparkling basins of melted
ice. Bald eagles and arctic terns will be your faithful companions, and you may
also see, or see evidence of, grizzly and black bears, moose, wolves, mountain
goats, beaver, wolverines and many other small birds and mammals. A highlight
of the expedition is a day spent at Alsek Lake, where house-sized icebergs
calve off the faces of the Grand Plateau and Alsek glaciers. From a mile away,
the cannon-blast retort of the breaking ice reverberates across the landscape. The lake is filled with blue and white bergs of all shapes and sizes that eventually melt enough to float into the river and on to the sea. Rowing through this wonderland of sculpted ice affords some amazing photographic opportunities. By journey’s end, you will have many extraordinary moments to savor — perhaps the song of a wolf, or the sight of a mother bear and her cubs sauntering across a sandbar — the pink glow of the late night sun on a distant peak — carpets of blue and gold forget-me-nots — beautiful campsites and misty morning—the aroma of fresh-made coffee and satisfying meals—the exhilarating sense of freedom that comes with floating down a wilderness river.
For further information please contact: Dr. Michael Marlow, mike.marlow@.ucdenver.edu. You may
also watch a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxpxaa0m1_A.