The Fortymile to Yukon Five Day River Trip

Fortymile Pamphlet

Fortymile Pamphlet. Note the word "Wild". There will be a quiz. Also Note the Picture of the Canoeists on the Calm Waters of the Fortymile.

DAY ONE: Ignorance is Bliss

The “plan” was set. We would put in at the Fortymile Bridge and canoe the 101 river miles along the Fortymile River into the Yukon and down to Eagle. It would take about four or five days depending upon how much we paddled and how fast the river was flowing. We got off to a slow start, with Ric having to manage a slow leak on the 4-Runner…

Flat Tire

Hopefully It''s Not Going to Be "One of Those Days".

We finally got the canoe loaded and were on the river by about 1 pm, in spite of the delay. The long Alaska days keep the pressure off these late starts. No worries about needing to set up camp by nightfall. There is full daylight until about 10 pm – then it dims down a bit.

Our Gear Trip for the Fortymile to Yukon

Ready to go! Who's going to carry all this stuff?

Packing the Canoe

Packing the Canoe for the Fortymile to Yukon River Trip

We were right into small riffles and experienced many sets of class two rapids all along the way. Fun and exhilarating rides all of them. Made camp about 6 pm above the Deadman’s Riffle, which was indicated on our map as class 3 at higher water levels, and based on the way the river was moving we had the feeling it was running pretty high. Camping there gave us a chance to take a walk and have a look-see at the rapids before going through them first thing the next day. We found a good site with a sandy beach and a nice “shelf” embankment where we could set up the tent. After we set up camp and had supper we took a walk to check out the rapids.

Lin & Ric at Camsite: Day One

The good old camera timer just gave Ric time to sit down before catching this relaxing moment along the 40 Mile River

The “Deadman’s Riffle” was certainly no “riffle” and yet it looked no worse than the class two’s we had been navigating all day – so there was never any thought of portaging or lining around them.

We went back and Lin did a little panning in the river – mostly fine flake – and then turned in.

Lin Panning Gold on the Fortymile River

We were hoping to pay for the trip but, so far, despite heroic efforts by Linda, the wages are pretty skimpy - this is at our first campsite on the 40 Mile River

DAY TWO: Deadman’s Riffle

We took our time getting up and going in the morning and finally put in to the river at about 1:15, toasting the river and tossing a bit of whiskey to her. We headed toward the “Riffle”.  Apparently this lady is a mean drunk.

By 1:20 we were facing 3-foot waves in chaotic, turbulent, violent water. By 1:25 we were flipped into the water. These were not “riffles” at all, but seriously chaotic rapids. (Ric says that the word “Deadman” probably should have given us a clue.) Hmmmm. Lin’s ankle snared in one of the canoe ropes, which then pulled her through through the waves. She worked her foot free, while Ric was getting squeezed between a huge boulder and the canoe. We finally made it to shore after about 20 minutes in the water and likely have the PFD’s we were wearing to thank for our lives. Our feet finally made a purchase on the rocky river bottom and we dragged ourselves ashore on a gravelly avalanche chute. Thank god it was a warm day (70s) with a warm breeze. It was an extraordinary experience and we are kind of glad we had it…ONCE! We bailed out the canoe and put ourselves back on the river to keep warm… finally making camp a few hours later. We did a good self assessment and determined ourselves pretty fortunate. Lin had a rope burn and bruising and swelling where the rope snared her ankle; Ric had a nasty scrape on his thigh from the boulder squeeze situation. The waterproof food bag worked well. The waterproof sleeping bag and clothing bag did not. Drat. We set to making a fire and setting up drying lines for our wet gear. Unfortunately cold water and stress seems to affect one’s brain as far as remembering to take pictures. So nothing to share except the aftermath…

Ric Starting a Fire for the Drying Out Process

Ric Starting a Fire for the Drying Out Process...for Drying Out Gear and Psychological Comfort.

Canoe as Drying Rack

Canoe as Drying Rack

Clothesline City

Clothesline City...Drying Out Our Gear.

Pot of Water on the Campfire

heating Water for a "Vermonter" to Ease Out Some of the Aches and Pains...


(1) pair of prescription glasses
(1) classifier pan
(2) gold pans
(1) pack of tea tree sticks
(1) paddle
and all semblance of pride

DAY THREE: CANYON RAPIDS (Oh no…not again…)

We had to go through another set of (more intense) rapids the following day – The Canyon Rapids. Both of us were still feeling fatigued, so we tried to line the canoe around them – but half way through we came to sheer canyon walls that we could not line along.  With no little angst we realized that the only way out was through.  We maneuvered into the rapids and were pulled right into the center in spite of our best efforts to make our way to the other (less intimidating) side. This time we made it without capsizing, but had some pretty anxious moments. It is exhilarating when you make it through.

We set our sights on finding a suitable campsite – it had been a long day and lining the canoe had been an exhausting experience. At least we were through all the major rapids.

Bear Paw Print

Bear Paw Print. Really, it was a Nice Campsite. Bears Like it Too.

DAY FOUR: Confluence with the Yukon

On the river by 9:45 we were pleased to find a slower, wider, calmer, gentler version of Fortymile as it flowed into the Yukon, and we made good time to the confluence of the rivers by 11 am.

Ric on the Fortymile River

Ric on the Fortymile River. The raging waters have quieted and we can get on with it. Ric's friend Jim Dell might recall the paddle shown here - he made it in 1978!

Along the way we were greeted by some folks from the porch of their cabin high above the waters as we neared the Clinton Bridge. We had not seen another soul since day one.

Clinton Bridge across Fortymile River

Maybe a car a day crosses the Clinton Bridge - when we saw it we knew the Yukon was only 30 to 45 minutes paddle ahead.

As we approached these two islands we knew that we were at the confluence of the Fortymile and the Yukon, and close to Fortymile Townsite.

The Islands at the Confluence

The Islands at the Confluence of the Fortymile and Yukon Rivers. It Won't be Long Now.

Fortymile Townsite is an historical settlement in the process of restoration. We took a short break, exploring the buildings and finding wild raspberries and taking a few pictures…

40 mile interp sign

Pretty Important confluence to get it's own interpretive sign!

40 mile townsite river map

40 Mile Townsite was an interesting stop - this excerpt from interpretive sign is a good overview of the confluence.

By noon we were on the mighty Yukon River. What a trip. Dude, we are on the YUKON!

Linda on Yukon River

Can you believe it?!?? We're on the YUKON!!

These were a few of the highlights of a long day of paddling we put in to make up for the time lost from dumping the canoe…

Yukon Beaver Pair

Yukon Beaver Pair...Can't a Guy Get Some Privacy??

Yukon Beaver Splash

Dam It.

Moose on the Yukon

Moose on the Yukon...has a catchy ring to

A Fish Wheel on the Yukon

A Fish Wheel on the Yukon. We were rather purplexed as to what this arcane looking device accomplishes. Turns out it catches fish, and turns by the current in the river.

Lin had a penchant for reading the course of the river: batting 1000 on predicting which way the river would turn, and saving a few strokes here and there.  We forged on until nearly 8 pm and made our last camp. A nearby brook was a godsend, as our water filter was getting clogged with river silt. Our last night on the river…

Last Night on the River

Last Night on the River... a Warm Fire and a Hot Meal.

Last Night on the River

Last Night on the River...Gonna Miss It.

We made camp to shifting winds, falling temperatures and darkening skies. No complaints though, we had been very, very lucky weather-wise. Rain was not far off and we felt a few sprinkles before turning in.

DAY FIVE: Landing at Eagle and the end of the journey

Lin woke with a start at about 6 am to the sound of something knocking the canoe. Up fast with bear spray in hand, but no culprit in sight. Maybe the wind. We had our breakfast and geared up to spitting skies and were on the river by 9 am. We knew we only had about 10 miles to go to Eagle and we took our time savoring the last few hours, making a slow float paddle down the river… just enjoying the sights as the town of Eagle, as the end of our journey came into view…

Eagle in Our Sights

Eagle in Our Sights.

Eagle, Alaska

Eagle, Alaska...the End of the Journey


Filed under Alaska Journal, Been There Done That

2 responses to “The Fortymile to Yukon Five Day River Trip

  1. Anonymous

    OMG Thank God you guys are OK. Glad you’re having the time of your lives. I personally DO NOT like challenging, rapid waters. I’ll just take the vicarious route w/ you guys.
    I’m amping up the ‘traveling mercies’ prayers for your protection.

  2. Pingback: Spending Christmas on the Road – Looking for Nowhere

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