Plan Your Visit
How to Get There
Most visitors to the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River arrive via the 160-mile-long Taylor Highway (see map), which branches off the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction near Tok, or via the Top of the Highway from Dawson City. Joseph, the start of float trips on the Middle Fork/North Fork, may be reached by plane if you charter an air taxi.
A roughly 60-mile section of the Taylor Highway from Tetlin Junction to Chicken has been paved; the rest of the highway is gravel. Road shoulders may be soft and there are many blind curves. Services for motorists are few and far between in the Fortymile region, so prepare carefully. Gas can be purchased in Tok, Chicken and Eagle.
BLM maintains three public campgrounds in the Fortymile region: West Fork Campground (Taylor Highway milepost 48.8), Walker Fork Campground (Taylor Highway milepost 82) and Eagle Campground in the town of Eagle. These campgrounds include campsites with picnic tables, as well as outhouses and potable water. Dump stations are not available; campers are encouraged to dump in Tok or Dawson. Campsites cost $10 per night ($5 with Senior or Access Pass).
Overnight camping is not allowed at BLM waysides along the Taylor Highway. See the River Corridor Rules and Taylor Highway pages for additional information.
Sections of the Fortymile River can be floated separately or in combination, so you can plan a trip that lasts one afternoon or more than a week. The following links will take you to more detailed information on each section. You may also wish to view a chart of estimated distances and float times (PDF, 151 KB). For a description of the international system used to rate rapids, see American Whitewater's website.
West Fork/Dennison Fork/Mosquito Fork to South Fork Bridge
South Fork Bridge to Fortymile Bridge
Middle Fork/North Fork to Fortymile Bridge
Fortymile Bridge to Clinton Creek (Yukon Territory) or Eagle
The Fortymile River is cold! Wear a life jacket. A wetsuit is recommended for kayakers and canoeists planning to run the bigger rapids. Know how to recognize, prevent and treat hypothermia.
All water should be treated to prevent giardiasis. This intestinal parasite can leave you feeling miserable for weeks. Boiling your drinking water is the best way to kill the organism.
Although there have been few problem bears on the Fortymile, there are black and brown bears in the area. Prudent campers cook and store food well away (and downwind if possible) from tents and boats. Don't bury cans or garbage; bears will find them and make a mess. Pack it in, pack it out. Be alert and make plenty of noise when walking through areas where bears may be present. The Web site of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides other suggestions for safe travel in bear country.
Changing Water Levels
The water level can change drastically overnight in the Fortymile River drainage. Always tie your boat well above the high water mark. Good weather in your particular location does not guarantee stable water levels. Rain in the headwaters can lead to significant fluctuations far downstream and change the characteristics of rapids. Updated information on current water levels in the Fortymile drainage is available on-line from the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service of the National Weather Service.
It is easy to become disoriented in the deep valleys of the rugged Fortymile country. Take along a compass and inch-to-the-mile maps of your route and a GPS unit if you have one. Keep track of your position as you float. Rapids and portages are not marked. Also carry maps of the surrounding area in case a mishap forces you to walk out cross-country. Lists of maps for different parts of the river are included in the river section descriptions above.