Download GPX file for this article
65.0000-142.8000Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Yukon - Charley Rivers National Preserve is in Interior Alaska along the border with Canada. It encompasses a portion of the Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin.


The Charley River where it joins the larger Yukon

The preserve encompasses 130 miles (208 km) of the 1,800-mile (3,000 km) Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin. The preserve protects the undeveloped Charley River and a significant portion of the upper Yukon.


Evidence from other portions of northern Alaska indicates that people lived in the area as early as 11,000 years before the present. Northern Athabaskan speakers moved into the region by about 1500 years ago. The inhabitants of the upper Yukon valley just prior to historic times were the Hän people, descendants of the Athabaskan migrants.

In 1886 gold was discovered on the Fortymile River, drawing prospectors to the Yukon. The influx of newcomers caused the Hän to resettle in towns, in many cases working for miners. Circle City was established in 1893, Seventymile in 1888 and Mission Creek, now Eagle, in 1895, all as mining camps. A number of sites in the preserve were developed for mining during this period. The boom died down by 1902, but two large dredge operations continued at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek, with smaller claims at scattered sites.


The majority of the preserve is taiga, or boreal forest, primarily black spruce, white spruce, with alder, willow, birch, cottonwood and poplar. The preserve environment is a fire-dependent ecosystem, with a mosaic of burned and unburned lands. Hot summer temperatures and dry weather allow lightning strikes to start fires which maintain a diverse ecosystem.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The chief salmon species in the portion of the Yukon that runs in the preserve are chinook, coho and chum. Other fish include Arctic grayling, northern pike, sheefish, burbot and whitefish. The best fishing is found along tributaries of the Yukon or near their mouths, where the brown, muddy water of the Yukon is more clear.

Large mammals in the preserve include wolf, black bear, moose, caribou, and Dall's sheep.


The interior Alaskan region experiences extremes of weather, with temperatures that can vary from −50 °F (−46 °C) in winter to 97 °F (36 °C) in summertime.

Get in[edit]

Access to the preserve is limited to water or air travel during the summer season, and air or various means of adventurous options (including snowmachines) during the winter months.

Driving a vehicle or flying into Eagle and floating the Yukon is a good option. Air carriers to return the visitor to the site of the "put in point" are available. You could drop your gear and vessel and other party members in Eagle, and drive to Circle in order to have your vehicle at the end of the journey.

There is no direct highway connection to Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, but you can access the preserve by airplane from Fairbanks, or water or air travel from two small towns on the road system, closer to the preserve:

  • The Taylor Highway begins at Tetlin Junction on the Alaska Highway, and ends 151 mi (243 km) later in Eagle on the banks of the Yukon River, 12 miles upstream from the preserve. It is a mostly gravel road usually open from mid-April to mid-October. It is suitable for cars, trucks, and small RVs.
  • The Steese Highway begins in Fairbanks and travels 162 miles to Circle, Alaska, 14 miles downstream of the preserve boundary. It is also mostly gravel, but is open year round, depending upon snow and drifting conditions in winter months.

From Eagle, you can float down the Yukon River to access the preserve. From Circle can get to the preserve by taking a powerboat 14 miles up the Yukon River.

You can charter an air taxi from Fairbanks or Tok and fly into the headwaters of the Charley River to travel down the rapids of this National Wild River.

Fees and permits[edit]

No permit is required to enter the park, but it is recommended that you attend a backcountry orientation at one of the park's visitor centers. This orientation will inform you about current weather, fire and wildlife alerts, backcountry safety, bear safety and Leave No Trace camping techniques. You can borrow bear-resistant food containers at the park visitor facilities.

The use of drones is prohibited in the reserve.

Get around[edit]

Map of Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve

The National Park Service provides a resolution-adjustable pdf map.


Numerous rustic cabins and historic sites can be found in the preserve:

  • Slaven's Roadhouse, at Coal Creek, was built by prospector Frank Slaven in 1932. Slaven lived there until 1938, after which Gold Placers, Inc. used the cabin as a bunkhouse and supply drop for their gold dredging operations on Coal Creek. In the summer the cabin serves as a bunkhouse for visitors and Park Service personnel.
  • The Coal Creek Historic Mining District encompasses a number of structures associated with coal dredge mining on Coal Creek. The district's centerpiece is the Coal Creek dredge, floating in the creek.
  • Biederman's Cabin is nearby, where mail carrier Ed Biederman boarded dogs for miners and trappers during the summer, using two fish wheels to catch enough salmon to feed the dogs.


  • The Charley River can be floated from June through August. The majority of the river is rated at Class II, with some Class III and even Class IV during high water. Most of the rapids occur in the area of the bluffs where the river emerges into the main Yukon valley.
  • The Yukon River can be floated from May to September. The most popular trip is from Eagle to Circle, a 158-mile (254 km) trip, averaging 30 miles (48 km) per day.
  • The preserve includes part of the route of the annual Yukon Quest dogsled race, which runs every February.

Buy, eat, drink[edit]

There are no services in the reserve.


There are public use cabins in the preserve for short-term recreational use and occupancy only. Reservations are not required for them: they are available on a free, first-come, first-served basis. If you plan to use the cabins for a combined total of more than ten days in a 30-day period, you can apply for a permit from the Preserve's Superintendent.

Stay safe[edit]

Check locally about road conditions before beginning your journey. Bring sufficient emergency supplies with you: water, food, and warm clothing.

If you are traveling the Taylor or Steese Highways, take two spare tires. Road condition reports are available and updated regularly.

There is no cell phone service and there are no amenities or services in the preserve.

Bears pose a danger to humans and pets in the preserve. Learn about bear safety, and borrow bear-resistant food containers from one of the visitors' centers listed above.

Go next[edit]

This park travel guide to Yukon - Charley Rivers National Preserve is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.