Yukon River 🛶 🇨🇦 🇺🇸: Food supplies, fishing & Alaska’s giant vegetables

In 2011, just after I completed the Crow Pass trail, I had a few drinks in Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, AK. Completely enthusiastic about my recent experience, I discussed with a park ranger how it would be to get dropped somewhere in the wild (e.g. with a float plane) and then make your own way back to civilisation while living off the land (fishing, hunting, plants). He looked at me and just said: “Son, do whatever you want but promise me one thing – TAKE YOUR FOOD WITH YOU”. He is obviously right and whoever doesn’t believe me I recommend watching this youtube docu of British Ed Wardle.

How much food do you need?

As a hiker, I usually work off ~3,000 calories per day depending how hard I push. For canoeing, it depends a lot on the conditions. During a relaxed paddle you look at 200 calories per hour (so about 2,000 for a 10h day), but headwinds etc can let you sweat a lot more. Here a handy calculator.

Assuming 3,000 calories similar, you’d need 800g of pasta or 500g of almonds to give you sufficient calories. But not all food is that rich in energy and just pasta for three month isn’t that intriguing either (4,5days hiking on pasta in Sikkim were plenty!). So I plan with roughly ~1kg of food per day to maintain weight and not budget my body-fat reserves.

Some high calorie-to-weight food items

1 egg 78cal
100g pasta 380cal
100g almonds 580cal
100g chocolate 535cal
100g snickers 485cal
100g tuna in oil 200cal
100g granola 490cal
100g cheese 400cal
100g kidney beans (dry, = 300g cooked) 380cal
100g lentils (dry, = 270g cooked) 320cal
100g Huel (emergency food) 400cal

What food to buy?

When it comes to food, the key limitation beyond your canoe’s carrying capacity is that you won’t have a fridge on river (even though nights might feel akin to sleeping in a freezer). Resupplying along the route is an option though expensive, patchy (on average only every ~330km on Canadian side, ~110km in Alaska) and with limited selection.

I will opt for food with high calorie to weight ratios, dried and canned food, snacks (lots of time on the canoe) and vegetables that won’t perish quickly (e.g. onion). Meat and other perishable items I will get on the way. In total, I plan to buy ~50kg in Whitehorse.

Shopping list: 50kg of supplies

Basic staples Total (kg) Items to be caught/bought on the way Total (kg)
Pasta 3.00 Fish
Flour (bread) 3.00 Meat
Flour (pizza) 1.50 Fresh vegetables
Lentils 3.00 Eggs
Beans 3.00 Whatever is missing & available
Cooking ingredients Sweets & Snacks
Butter 1.00 Snickers (130g) 3.25
Olive / sunflower oil 1.00 Almonds 2.25
Baking powder 0.45 Beef Jerky 2.00
Pizza yeast 0.12 Muesli bars 2.00
Lemon juice 0.20 Sweets 3.00
Chia seeds 0.50 Cookies 1.00
Dry mango/fruit 0.50
Vegetable
Carrot 0.50 Breakfast
Onions 3.00 Oat bran 2.00
Garlic 0.20 Granola 2.25
Potatoes 2.50 Coffee 0.50
Pickled cucumber 2.00 Tea bags 0.20
Milk powder 0.50
Canned food & Meat
Tuna 2.00 Soups & Sauces
SPAM 1.00 Knorr Soup 2.00
Sweetcorn cans 1.00 Veg stock 0.15
Salami 0.50 Soy Sauce 0.15
Sausages 0.50 Wasabi 0.04

Alaska’s mega vegetables

I have already written about the polar day in Alaska, as the sun never sets around summer solstice. An unexpected side effect of this are ginormous vegetables and fruit that farmers grow in Alaska owing to the extra sun hours. The full records you find here, but just imagine a 16kg broccoli, a 3kg onion or a 668kg pumpkin!!! I will need to find normal sized food or my canoe will sink.

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In May to September it never gets completely dark in Dawsin and the sun is out up to 21h per day. Things are different come winter …

Fishing on the Yukon

Every year the Yukon/Alaska experiences the largest salmon run on the planet and is also home to lots of other fish species. You will need to obtain a fishing license for either side of the border (US145 p.a. for non-residents, $25 in Canada p.a.) and watch king salmon regulations in particular (though the King salmon run is already May/June and hence you will likely miss it).

Below is the advice I received from Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Yukon is turbid; best fish in clear tributaries; don’t just rely on fish) and a fish run table. Looks like chum salmon, dolly varden, rainbow trout, greyling, sheefish and whitefish are on the menu.

Fish species in the Yukon

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Advice Lisa at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Your request for fishing information has come by me.  Sounds like Shane Hertzog has sent information re. your need for a sport fish license while in Alaska.  Since you will be starting your float in Canada, you will need to check with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fisheries-peches/recreational-recreative-eng.html) for fishing license and information while you are floating the Yukon River on the Canadian side.

While floating through Alaska, you will also need to have the latest sport fishing regulations with you in addition to your license, which I’ve attached.  The specific regulations for the Yukon River drainage are found on page 21.  The mainstem Yukon River receives quite a bit of glacial input and is fairly turbid.  Most success capturing fish will be in the numerous clear-water tributaries.  Depending on where you are in the drainage, you should be able to target chum salmon.  Chances are good that the sport fishery on the mainstem Yukon River will be closed for Chinook (king) salmon and restricted in the tributaries.  An “Emergency Order” for this and any other sport fishing restrictions will be posted on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Sport Fish website for the Yukon Drainage Management Area (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=ByAreaInteriorYukonDrainage.main).

In the clearer water tributaries and/or at the confluences with the mainstem Yukon River you should be able to target “non-salmon” species such as Northern pike, Arctic grayling, and Sheefish (called inconnu in Canada).  You can find more information on the seasonal life histories of these species at:http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=animals.main.  When I fish, I like to use a casting rod with spin reel and different sizes of pixie depending on what I am targeting (small for Arctic grayling and large for sheefish and N. pike).  Northern pike especially seem to like the more tannic sloughs you will encounter on your downriver float.  If you like to fly fish, there is lots of information on flies, etc. on the internet and what species you wish to target like to strike.  I would make sure you had enough food and not rely on fish as major meals as depending on river conditions and what time and where the fish are in their yearly migrations, they can be hard to catch.

ARCTIC-YUKON-KUSKOKWIM RUN TIMING

This table indicates when sport fish are present (little fish) or at their peak availability (larger fish) in fresh water in the area of Alaska which encompasses the northwest half of the state. The only highway in this area is the Dalton Highway, running between Prudhoe Bay and Fairbanks. The area includes the communities of Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Aniak, Galena, Arctic Village, Barrow and numerous smaller villages.

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