Noatak River, Alaska August 2015

From Nelson Walker Lake to Kotzebue

August 15, 2015


We heard some running sounds in the middle of the night. We got up about 3 to take a look, but did not see anything. I held the bear spray for a while, but finally fell back to sleep. It is not a deep sleep as it seems like I have an ear open for the bears. After a somewhat restless night we got out of the tent around 8.  That is when I saw the tracks that were made by the bear in the night. One could see where the bear had come to a sliding stop about 15 feet from our tent and then reversed his steps. We have never been around so many bears.  It is awesome and frightening at the same time. A leisurely morning found us washing our hair and cleaning up our bodies.  In the distance we saw the town of Noatak. We also meet two young men from Denmark who are also planning to paddle to Kotzebue.  At one time the main river channel flowed next to the town.  It now however is further away.  Not a problem for paddlers and small boats as there is now a smaller channel that goes by the town.  It is a problem for barges which no longer can bring fuel to the village.  All fuel is flown in which makes it very expensive. We decide to by pass the town. Our old maps are not quite useful here as the river has cut many new channels. We try to follow the main channel, but sometimes find that we have chosen the wrong one.  We come to a nice looking gravel bar and for once there is not a lot of bear tracks. We set up camp and make Pizza and rolls with the heat diffuser that a student of ours in Baja sent us.  As we are enjoying our meal, we notice a large bear on the other side of a wide section of river. We think no worries why would he want to cross? Well, he did and not only did he cross, but began walking toward our camp.  With whistles and bear spray in hand we slowly walk toward the bear. We let the bear know that we are here and it should go elsewhere.  He does not seem to care and continues towards us.  And then at the right moment for us, a motor boat comes up the river and off goes the bear. We put the canoe next to the tent and settle in for the night.

Miles traveled 33