Nancy's Alaska Journey to Yukon Charlie Rivers

Located near the tiny town of Eagle, Alaska [map], Nancy Bandley's Alaskan adventure continues far inland to the Yukon Charlie Rivers National Preserve.




Paddling inside Yukon Charlie Rivers : NPS Photo : Carl Stapler PhotographerContinuing in an easterly direction (from last week's journey to Wrangell - St. Elias), the first park inside Alaska after Canada on the Trans Alaskan Highway is Yukon Charley Rivers. It is made of of two rivers, the Yukon and the Charley. The Yukon, or "Great River" is truly that, it flows 1,980 miles from Yukon Territory in Canada to the Bering Sea., making it the longest river in Alaska. The estimated drainage area of this river is more than size of the state of Texas. But only 115 miles of it are protected within this preserve. The Charley is a wild river and 100 miles of it are protected within this preserve. There are no roads here. Have you heard that before? The closest to the preserve one can get on a road (if you want to call it that) is Eagle -- abut 95 miles up from the Trans Alaska Highway, just north of the town of Tok. When you get to Eagle, after passing Chicken (so named because the locals couldn't spell Ptarmigan) you are 12 miles from the preserve. The closest road approach from the west is the Steese Highway out of Fairbanks which goes to within 14 miles of the preserve. Or, as another alternative, if you are into small plane flying -- and you really need to be in order to do a lot of the Alaskan parks -- then you can fly into Coal Camp and actually land inside the Preserve.

Once you've reached the Yukon Charlie Rivers, your decision becomes whether to boat or hike.

The Yukon was the main highway during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898-1899. After the gold rush, paddle wheelers plied the waters bringing in goods and supplies to the far flung settlements. Boats are still used to ferry in supplies. The Yukon Queen leaves Dawson City in Canada and sails down the river to Eagle, where buses usually wait to take you into Tok. To continue on means a 3-4 day trip, because there is just no where to get you out.The steep cliffs are dotted with Peregrine Falcons, and Eagle nests. The river provides the eagles with fishing rights and ready meals. This also makes the journeys popular with fishermen.

While the preserve is about the size of New Jersey, it has only 30 residents. A large population of Caribou, called the forty mile herd roams through here on their semi annual migrations. Brown bear are frequent visitors, and wolves. All in all, this place is pretty much a wilderness.