Colville Float 2012
Other than seeing hundreds of migrating caribou at the beginning, we saw few mammals. Although we did see 5 grizzlies that were far away and many large bear and wolf tracks, our major wildlife viewing was birds. Brian is an avid birder and he brought along a good spotting scope and quality binoculars. The trip could have been called "Adventure Birding". He recorded 60 species of birds. The Colville flows through relatively flat terrain with no trees but there were always cliffs along the river. This provided great habitat for Rough-legged Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. We saw hundreds of them. The cliffs also provided us with short hiking opportunities to obtain views. The flat terrain was not well suited for long hikes. The ground was covered with lush, colorful tundra and wildflowers. Mosquitos appeared around 19 June, but regular applications of deet kept them at bay.
We all flew to Kotzebue on Alaska Airlines. From there, it took two bush flights to fly us and our gear (1300 pounds total) to the headwaters of the Colville River. This included 55 pounds of food per person. The river is Class 1 and did not cause us any difficulties, although we did have to push off of sandbars when the water was low at the beginning. We also had some strong winds early in the trip. The weather was mild and we had little rain. At the end, after arriving in the small native village of Nuiqsut, 20 miles from the Arctic Ocean, we took a short commercial flight to Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) from where we flew directly back home.
The only significant cost was the bush flight at the beginning, which was $775 per person. Excluding the food we brought from home and the airfare to Alaska (for which most of us used frequent flyer miles), we spent less than $1300 each on the trip.
The photos below are all annotated and can be considered a mini-slide show. My Smugmug site also contains a separate gallery titled "Colville Camps" which shows our campsites along the river.