Alaska Rivers: Porcupine River

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

The Porcupine offers an excellent novice river trip for those experienced in remote wilderness travel and is an ideal river for a family expedition. One of the largest tributaries of the Yukon River, the Porcupine drains 46,000 square miles in Canada and Alaska. Beginning in the Ogilvie Mountains in Canada's Yukon Territory, the river flows northeast and then west about 300 miles to the U.S. border, then southwest more than 200 miles to its mouth at the Yukon River at Fort Yukon.

Starting at the U.S.-Canada border is a 40-mile segment with nearly continuous cliffs that rise between 250 and 500 feet above the river. Red Gate, a colorful, vertically walled canyon, marks the lower end of Upper Rampart Canyon. From here, for a distance of about 35 miles, the river flows through low hills and lowlands and the river gradient slows considerably. After passing the Coleen River, the Porcupine enters Lower Rampart Canyon-15 miles of limestone cliffs up to 60 feet high. The river banks are often steep and forested, however, the Porcupine and connecting rivers are surprisingly accessible.

The Porcupine River derives its name from the Gwich'in word for the river, Ch'oonjik, or "Porcupine Quill River". The Porcupine caribou herd, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  Alaska, gets its name from the river. The oldest (but disputed) possible evidence of human habitation in North America were found in a cave along one of its tributaries, the Bluefish River. A large number of apparently human-modified animal bones have been discovered in the Bluefish Caves. They have been dated to 25,000 to 40,000 years old by carbon dating, several thousand years earlier than generally accepted human habitation of North America.

A number of rivers and creeks join the Porcupine and add to the swiftness of the river's flow. The Old Crow River joins near the Old Crow settlement, and The Coleen River joins near the end of the Ramparts. At the confluence of the Porcupine and Bell rivers is a sweeping panorama of mountains, plateaus, and river valleys that will give you an appreciation of wild Alaska.

In addition to the wildlife and landscape, you are a number of abandoned and inhabited native settlements on the Porcupine including Old Crow, an inhabited settlement founded by the Gwich'in people. Old Crow's location was prized by this subsistence tribe for its strategic proximity to excellent fishing and the seasonal migratory routes of the Porcupine caribou. Just past Old Crow is a canyon area known as the Ramparts. The Ramparts provides fantastic scenery and some opportunities to view peregrine falcons.

Temperatures in the summer can range from 20 F in the evening to 70 F during the day. Expect a variety of weather patterns, from hot, calm, summer days to rain, wind, and cold. Severe weather is not uncommon at this latitude (60 N). Daylight often lasts until after midnight during July and August.

Salmon stocks of the Porcupine River are fished in both Canada and the United States. Significant harvests of chum in Alaska have decreased the number of chum which are able to make it to the upper Porcupine River watershed each year. Canadian catches, though far smaller than Alaskan catches, were increasing until 2002 when the harvest was reduced within the Porcupine watershed.


scenic porcupine river

enjoy alaskas porcupine river

Alaska Rivers:

Alaska has more than 12,000 rivers including the nine major rivers listed below:

Learn more about Alaskan rivers

Colville River Copper River Gulkana River
Kuskokwim River Noatak River Porcupine River
Susitna River Tanana River Yukon River.