Summer Recreation. The Unalakleet River supports such activities as fishing, boating, and camping. The best time to visit is July through mid-September to take full advantage of the midnight sunshine and discover what is considered to be one of the great salmon runs in Alaska.
Winter Recreation. The frozen Unalakleet River comes alive in winter with the joyful cries of sled dogs as the historic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race parallels the frozen river en route to the finish line in Nome. Popular winter activities along the river corridor include snowmobiling, dog mushing, ice fishing, hunting and trapping.
Set adrift and find the solitude and freedom your spirit craves. The Unalakleet's smooth, clear waters can be easily traversed by raft or canoe. Stream flow is relatively fast and the water is cold (about 40 to 50 degrees F.) so each person should have a personal flotation device and know how to recognize, prevent and treat hypothermia.
Float trips from the confluence of the Unalakleet and the Old Woman rivers, a distance of 62 river miles, usually take an average of five days to travel. There are many gravel bars along the way for camping, fishing, and spotting wildlife.
Due to its remote location, up river access is difficult for people without a motorized boat. Individuals planning float trips may make arrangements for transportation up river with local residents.
The Unalakleet River contains all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as Dolly Varden, char and arctic grayling. Sport fishing is regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). Catch and release anglers should handle their catch gently and release them in slow, moving water, after ensuring they have recovered from the stress of capture. ADF&G offers additional guidance on angling ethics and responsible catch and release techniques.
Visitors to this area have viewing opportunities for moose, bears, bald eagles, ospreys, wolves, fox, and beaver, among many other species in their natural, pristine habitat.
There are no established campsites or public facilities along the river corridor. The Unalakleet National Wild River corridor ends at its confluence with the Chiroskey River, 24 river miles from the village of Unalakleet. In the wild river corridor and below the Chiroskey River, there are individual Native allotments which are private. Contact the Unalakleet Native Corporation for permission to camp on Alaska Native lands below the Chiroskey River.
Motorized and non-motorized boats share the river. When encountering a motorized boat in a narrow section, row to one side and give the motor boat the deeper channel. Use caution as the wake from a boat may swamp rafts or canoes. Gravel bars, logs and sweepers (overhanging trees) are the main obstructions floaters may encounter on the river. Remember to go around sweepers, not under! Travel in remote locations requires careful planning and preparation. Accidents can occur in seconds, but emergency assistance may take hours to arrive. More boating safety information.
Appreciate the Local Culture
Alaska Natives maintain their rich cultures in connection with the land. Many of the local villagers rely upon the resources of the Unalakleet River to support their subsistence lifestyle. Please respect private property along the river by not trespassing. Experience the charms and challenges of a unique culture and don't forget to give a friendly wave when passing others on the river!